Yale Study Surveys Attitudes Toward Hurricanes in Connecticut

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Researchers at Yale University in New Haven conducted a survey on how coastal Connecticut residents react to tropical storm systems, and the results are raising some eyebrows.

The investigators received responses from more than 1,000 Connecticut residents, 996 of whom experienced a hurricane or tropical storm within the past five years. Only those who experienced a storm in the past five years were included in the results.

Based on responses to the survey, Connecticut residents were broken up into five distinct groups in terms of response to a hurricane or tropical storm: first out, constrained, optimists, reluctant and diehards.

First Out

  • The "first out" group sees a great risk from hurricanes and would evacuate if one is forecast. A call from officials to evacuate isn’t necessary for this group to leave town. Interestingly enough, only about half of this sensitive group evacuated in Hurricane Sandy.

Constrained

  • Constrained residents also understand the risks associated with a tropical system, but have barriers to evacuation. Potential barriers include pets, personal disability or even lack of money. This was the smallest group, coming in with 14 percent of those included.

Optimists

  • Similar to the constrained, optimists are not well prepared to evacuate and perceive barriers to evacuation. Connecticut doesn’t often deal with land-falling hurricanes, and optimists have very low expectations that one will hit in the next 50 years.

Reluctant

  • Reluctant people would need an official evacuation order to leave. Additionally, these people tended to live farther away from the coastline. Of those included in the results, the reluctant group was largest, at 27 percent.

Diehards

  • The most resilient group of people was called diehards. These residents are least likely to evacuate and have the lowest risk perception. Diehards feel they can better protect lives and property by staying home even when the storm and its associated storm surge arrive.

Before a storm, there are numerous ways to promote evacuating. They include the governor’s office, local government, local police/fire and local media, including television and radio.

By far the most effective way to get people to evacuate is by notification from local police and fire departments. For all five groups of residents, the percentage chance they "definitely/probably would" evacuate was highest when word came from local police and fire officials.

The percentages for "definitely/probably would" evacuate were lowest for every single group if the evacuation notice were to come from television or radio sources.

Not to be understated is the need for continuing education and outreach long before a storm hits.

In the write-in section on the survey, one resident in the diehard group said, "lived here 28 years; been through a lot of storms."

The conclusion was that given the various views and attitudes towards hurricanes among the population, messages need to be tailored for different groups, clear communication of the different hazards is needed and resources for evacuation are critical.

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