Graduation Year

2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Geography

Major Professor

Graham A. Tobin, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jayajit Chakraborty, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark R. Hafen, Ph.D.

Keywords

natural hazards, social vulnerability, cognitive factors, situational factors, general systems theory

Abstract

This research investigates the public perception of hurricane forecasting and warning systems with a view to improving response activities. The hazard literature shows that the effectiveness of such systems is contingent upon on the smooth operation of all components of the system and that warning recipients fully understand the implications of the warning message by taking appropriate action. It is argued that public perception of warning systems will vary depending on various socio-demographic factors, such as age, gender, level of education, socioeconomic status and area, factors that will ultimately influence overall effectiveness. To test this, a questionnaire survey was undertaken of local residents in Lake Wales, Florida, a town that was severely impacted by three hurricanes in the 2004 season. Results indicate that some demographic factors appear to influence an individual's willingness and ability to respond. Overall, level of education and income seem to have a larger affect on response than age or gender. The two sampling areas in Lake Wales elicited more significant differences than do the other variables but, the area variable takes into account all of the other factors of age, gender, level of education, and socioeconomic status. In fact, what is argued here is that area actually acts as a surrogate variable for the others. Therefore, it is not where one is located that makes a difference but the composition of the people in the location itself.

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