What is the Best Emergency Warning Device? Perceptions of Households and Emergency Management Agencies on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Authors: David M Cochran*, University of Southern Mississippi, Bandana Kar, Oak Ridge National Laboratories
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: Risk Communication, Emergency Management, Mississippi GUlf Coast
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Forum Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


An important area of risk communication research focuses on the effectiveness of different warning technologies and on how emergency management agencies (EMAs) and the public regard them. This paper presents the results of a project, funded by the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which focused on the perceptions of emergency managers and the public with regard to technologies associated with the IPAWS system. By comparing survey responses from EMA personnel and households on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, this study explored two questions: (1) How effective are existing warning devices? (2) How do EMA personnel and households rate these devices?

Our results indicate that households place the most trust in television and family/friend networks radio, National Weather Radio (NWR), and sirens. EMA personnel, on the other hand, considered television, radio, NWR, telephones, text messages, and the internet to provide the public with the best information. EMA personnel reported that age, gender, income, dependents, and chronic illness factor into the responses of at-risk populations, especially their decision to evacuate. Most households, however, were willing to evacuate regardless of their situation given the message came from a trusted device. These findings illustrate notable differences in how the public and EMA personnel regard information transmitted by the IPAWS system. Such differences are crucial in understanding which technologies are most appropriate for emergency preparedness, disaster mitigation, and public safety.

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