Communication's role and technology preferences during hurricane evacuations

Kevin Taaffe, Sandra Garrett, Yuan Han Huang, Innocent Nkwocha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Emergency evacuations are dynamic, time-critical events involving complex coordination decisions. To develop robust evacuation policies, it is important to understand how people respond to evacuation alerts, including choices of time to leave and routes to take. The purpose of this study was to investigate the preferred communication sources and modalities for evacuees to use and learn about changes in hurricane scenarios. A hurricane evacuation behavior survey was administrated to residents in the greater Charleston, South Carolina, area. In this study, two hurricane scenarios are examined to understand prehurricane evacuation decisions and communication preferences of residents. Results from the survey indicate that while driving, respondents prefer using radios to gather traffic and weather information. When at home, television is the most preferred modality among respondents to determine weather status and to find out about hurricane evacuation notices. Concerning evacuation behavior, respondents prefer leaving in the daytime rather than at night. To account for this preference, evacuation announcements and notifications should be broadcast early enough to allow for more daytime evacuations. This may result in a longer lead time if the announcement would have otherwise occurred at night. The evacuation timing decisions from the survey are then compared with historical behavior data from a retrospective Hurricane Hugo survey. The respondents indicate a tendency to evacuate earlier than what was shown in the Hurricane Hugo survey. This may imply that it takes longer to actually prepare to leave than respondents to the current survey realize. Alternatively, respondents to the Hurricane Hugo survey may pay more attention to weather patterns as well as wait for orders to be provided by the state rather than make a proactive decision to leave.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-190
Number of pages9
JournalNatural Hazards Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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