A qualitative study of mobile home resident perspectives on tornadoes and tornado protective actions in South Carolina, USA
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Occupants of mobile or manufactured homes in the United States of America (USA) are highly exposed and susceptible to injury or death from tornado hazards. This problem is most pronounced in the southern and eastern USA, where tornadoes are frequent and mobile homes comprise upwards of 15 % of the housing stock. Recognizing this vulnerability, emergency management entities and the USA National Weather Service often recommend that mobile home residents evacuate to a nearby sturdy building or a specially-built tornado shelter when tornadoes threaten their communities. Previous research suggests, however, that only 30 % of residents follow this recommendation. In this research I aim to provide insight as to why many mobile home residents seldom undertake the suggested course of action for tornadoes. Using excerpts from twenty semi-structured interviews conducted during 2013 in South Carolina, I show that some individuals understand physical characteristics of tornadoes very differently than experts do. In addition, mobile home residents may also hold views that differ from experts about the ability of their homes to withstand tornadic winds and debris. Even if mobile home occupants pay close attention to thunderstorm hazards and might be willing to evacuate, they may prioritize protective actions for lightning or flash flooding over those recommended for tornadoes. Finally, the interviews reveal that there is much confusion over where to go, when to leave, and which route to take to arrive safely at a sheltering place for tornado hazards. I discuss some of the potential ramifications of the findings for theory and practice and suggest how future research might build on this work.
KeywordsTornado Thunderstorm Protective action Evacuation Perception Mobile home South Carolina
This research was funded by the United States National Science Foundation via a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement grant through the Geography and Spatial Sciences program, award #1301822. All findings, conclusions, recommendations, and views expressed in this article solely represent the author and do not reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. I would like to thank the Department of Geography, the Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina, and the Bilinski Foundation for additional monetary support, as well as the Postdoctoral Scholar program and School of Geosciences at the University of South Florida. Many thanks to Susan Cutter, Jerry Mitchell, Sarah Battersby, Andrea Tanner, Chris Emrich, and Ronnie Schumann for constructive feedback and support of this research. Finally, I extend gratitude to the research participants who graciously took time to speak about their experiences and perspectives.
Compliance with ethical standards
At the outset of each interview, I briefly outlined the purpose and scope of the study and disclosed the funding sources for the research (National Science Foundation and the University of South Carolina). This was followed by a short explanation of how the interview would be conducted, including the fact that the audio would be recorded for later transcription and analysis, and that any information given by participants would not be divulged to any other parties. The recruits were made aware of efforts to protect the privacy and confidentiality of their responses and information contained therein, as well as their right to refuse to answer any question or stop the interview at any time. If recruits agreed to participate after acknowledging the above information, they were considered to have given their informed consent. There was a $25 cash incentive to participate in the interviews. The research protocols and materials for the work presented herein were approved by the University of South Carolina Institutional Review Board, ID Pro00021269.
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