Hurricane evacuations in the age of COVID-19: How evacuation zones and concerns about location of residence affect perceptions of risk and evacuation decisions

Authors: Delián Colón-Burgos*, The Pennsylvania State University, Jennifer Collins , University of South Florida, School of Geosciences, Amy Polen , University of South Florida, College of Public Health & School of Geosciences
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Climatology and Meteorology, Environmental Perception
Keywords: Hurricane evacuations, Covid-19, Public shelters, Risk perceptions
Session Type: Virtual Guided Poster
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 53
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

COVID-19 presents an urgent call to study hurricane evacuation behaviors, due to conditions in shelters that may lead to further outbreaks. The research’s purpose is to understand the perceived and real risk factors that individuals consider in making evacuation decisions during a pandemic and how these vary amongst people living in different evacuation zones and with different concerns about their location of residence. Data were obtained from an online statewide survey sent to Florida residents and analyzed using SPSS. Chi-square tests were performed between responses to four statements about anticipated evacuation decisions considering COVID-19 and a resident’s a) Evacuation zone (Evacuation Zone A to non-Evacuation zones), b) Concerns about location of residence, and c) Water-based concerns. Chi-square results considering the respondents’ evacuation zone were the most statistically significant, with p < .001, for three of the statements. It was found that a resident's evacuation zone does impact their perceptions of risk for going to shelters regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents from high risk evacuation zones were found to be less likely to evacuate to a shelter, but at the same time less likely to shelter in place. Residents are hesitant of evacuating to a shelter due to possible close-quarters conditions that can lead to getting infected with COVID-19. These results can provide guidance to emergency management and local government in order to plan for a hurricane season with compounded risks. This research contributes to the scientific knowledge about hurricane evacuation perceptions of risk and decision-making during a pandemic.

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