People with dependable relationships were more likely to remain during the hurricane, whereas those with less community support tended to evacuate. Individuals in groups with higher incomes or more education were likely to have more dependable relationships. Decision to evacuate did not tally with the density and diversity of someone’s social connections.

To come up with these results, Collins and colleagues surveyed evacuees at a westbound rest stop on Interstate 4 in Polk County, Florida on October 5th and 6th 2016 and non-evacuees at a Home Depot in Titusville on October 8th and a Walmart Market in Port Orange on October 9th. The sample included 62 evacuees and 70 non-evacuees. Evacuees were often from outside the areas that were under evacuation orders and non-evacuees were sometimes found to be staying where they’d been told to evacuate.

The survey took 15 minutes and collected socio-demographic data as well as details of any previous experience of hurricane evacuation. Collins and co-authors used the Berkman-Syme Social Network Index (B-SSNI) to measure the diversity and density of an individual's social connections and the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) to measure the perceived dependability of each person’s social network.

There are many factors that influence the decision to evacuate during a hurricane. How people perceived their individual risk during Hurricane Matthew depended on the characteristics of the storm, including intensity, size, location, as well as social variables, the researchers found. Understanding hazard evacuation behaviour is key to improving planning and warning protocols. Disaster services may also use this information to promote community resiliency and target education campaigns better.

On September 7th the University of South Florida Hurricane Research Team were deployed to conduct a similar study around the evacuees of Hurricane Irma.

Collins and colleagues published their article in Weather, Climate and Society.

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