How about Now? Changes in Risk Perception before and after Hurricane Irma

Prepared by:

Matthew Billman, Kayode Atoba, Courtney Thompson, and Samuel Brody

Prepared for:


Publication Date:

May 7, 2023

Risk reduction behaviors are often voluntary and influenced by how at-risk an individual personally feels, known as risk perception. This paper examines how risk perception changed from before and six months after Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm that narrowly missed Sarasota County, FL. Both surveys asked about residents’ hurricane risk perceptions, evacuation behaviors, mitigation plans, and attitudes about self-efficacy. For each question found in both surveys, the research used t-tests (A = 0.05) to assess whether significant changes in risk perceptions occurred between responses. The results suggest that Hurricane Irma had a notable impact on risk perception. The changes were most evident in reported levels of self-efficacy as residents were less likely to feel able to sufficiently prepare for or recover from hurricane impacts after Hurricane Irma. Respondents
were also more likely to believe individuals are responsible for preparing for hurricane impacts. The findings have implications for public risk communicators, who may find it effective and sustainable to appeal to residents’ lowered self-efficacy or sense of responsibility for the dangers of hurricanes while implementing policies and communication strategies.