A Qualitative Analysis of Public Compliance to Severe Weather and Tornado Warnings

Ryherd, Jan
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Society as a whole is becoming more immersed in the age of technology and people are taking severe weather sheltering decisions into their own hands more than ever before. People are going through a complex process when a warning is received, a process that is still not well understood by scientists. In this study, an online survey was used to evaluate various parameters including basic demographics, weather knowledge and experience, and thought-processes during severe weather, to help gain an understanding of this social process and make better connections between why some people choose to seek shelter and why others do not. Through statistical analysis, significant relationships were found corresponding to the presence of family and friends increasing shelter-seeking behaviors, especially for males. Individuals who use three or more warning information sources to make sheltering decisions during the warning-response process were found to be more likely to shelter than those using fewer. Respondents who had a general fear of tornadoes tended to have increased sheltering behavior when compared to those who said they did not fear tornadoes. Likeliness to shelter tended to increase with age. The findings of this study also brought to light communication issues between the public and the meteorology community, including confusion revolving around outdoor warning sirens and county-based warnings. The public relies on outdoor warning sirens, but there isn’t a clear understanding of their purpose and use. County-based warnings are perceived as false warnings to unaffected portions of the county, sometimes decreasing an individual’s likeliness to shelter in the future.