Journal of Geographical Systems

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 193–209 | Cite as

Simulating the effects of social networks on a population’s hurricane evacuation participation

  • Michael J. WidenerEmail author
  • Mark W. Horner
  • Sara S. Metcalf
Original Article


Scientists have noted that recent shifts in the earth’s climate have resulted in more extreme weather events, like stronger hurricanes. Such powerful storms disrupt societal function and result in a tremendous number of casualties, as demonstrated by recent hurricane experience in the US Planning for and facilitating evacuations of populations forecast to be impacted by hurricanes is perhaps the most effective strategy for reducing risk. A potentially important yet relatively unexplored facet of people’s evacuation decision-making involves the interpersonal communication processes that affect whether at-risk residents decide to evacuate. While previous research has suggested that word-of-mouth effects are limited, data supporting these assertions were collected prior to the widespread adoption of digital social media technologies. This paper argues that the influence of social network effects on evacuation decisions should be revisited given the potential of new social media for impacting and augmenting information dispersion through real-time interpersonal communication. Using geographic data within an agent-based model of hurricane evacuation in Bay County, Florida, we examine how various types of social networks influence participation in evacuation. It is found that strategies for encouraging evacuation should consider the social networks influencing individuals during extreme events, as it can be used to increase the number of evacuating residents.


Hurricane evacuation Agent-based model Social networks Social media 

JEL Classification

Q54 C63 H31 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Widener
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mark W. Horner
    • 3
  • Sara S. Metcalf
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity at Buffalo, SUNYBuffaloUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeographyThe Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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