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Preliminary Look at Public Perceptions of and Responses to Warnings in the 27 April 2011Tornado Outbreak Kim Klockow University of Oklahoma Elise Schultz.

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Presentation on theme: "Preliminary Look at Public Perceptions of and Responses to Warnings in the 27 April 2011Tornado Outbreak Kim Klockow University of Oklahoma Elise Schultz."— Presentation transcript:

1 Preliminary Look at Public Perceptions of and Responses to Warnings in the 27 April 2011Tornado Outbreak Kim Klockow University of Oklahoma Elise Schultz and Stephanie Mullins UAHuntsville 18 October 2011 National Weather Association Birmingham, AL 1

2 This is Alabama?? Cullman EF-4 (Morrow) Cullman/Arab EF-4
Hackleburg/Tanner EF-5 Rainsville EF-5

3 Broad-brush overview of the event from a warnings/storm tracks perspective. Some places had upwards of 12 warnings (just at their location, not even considering county). Different practices at two WFOs, different average lead-times. Final analysis will try to identify any observable effect (may be really challenging). Brief description of where I went, sampling method, data collection method. Note the flexibility to formulate new hypotheses, necessary given the levels of fatality observed. 71 interviews (mainly members of the public, 5 officials & broadcasters). ~ 30 seconds. Situation well-forecast. Lots of information out days before. Still a severely confusing situation to understand w/am convection, so let’s try to break down how people figured out what was going on, and what responses looked like.

4 Public perceptions & response
Note: Preliminary findings! Public was largely cognizant of anticipated severity Critically important: Built-up awareness, continued attention Relation to April 3, 1974 Optimism bias always present What realistic response looks like Uncertainty reduction/calibration ideas The last few minutes Mix of information sources TV, radio* & NWR, sirens**, internet (NWS, private vendors) Family/friends, police scanners (local) The environment! Locally-situated understandings of hazards/science, or “folk science” A significant issue: local, situated understandings of hazards, or “folk science” On anticipated severity: Why built-up awareness was so important. Optimism bias = reduces tendency to take preventative care. Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them. This is approximately true (bias is somewhat small)…it’s extremely unlikely. Well-calibrated to the risk overall. What can we hope for, then? Awareness. Suspicion carried through an event that something just might happen to them. Odds increasing. People are thinking about this probabilistically, think in terms of odds. People know the low probability is low. Warning != “seek shelter immediately,” though most know it’s what they’ve been *taught*. They *learn* what reality is over many trials. Result? High certainty required for action. To me: comes from spatial awareness + personalization + belief. When does this come together? The last few minutes. But note… response is not only diving for shelter! It’s also preparing to shelter, which happens at much lower stages of certainty + high awareness. Radio = used more heavily as tornadoes approached (power outages, driving). Very important note about when radio audiences are listening critically, what they’re listening for. Maybe we shouldn’t fight the use of environmental signals – Try to tell people what they’ll see! Not just from a chopper, but on the ground. Chasers can be very useful!

5 Spatial Awareness What information, specifically, was sought? What is that *best* information to provide? Loops, trajectory cones, TOAs* (primary) Local information (primary) Each person had an action/response threshold. People don’t comprehend large tornado scale Footage of tornadoes (secondary) Three sources of uncertainty Trajectory of storm (where) Tornado yes/no (existence) Severity/strength (how bad) Key Idea: There are a lot of tradeoffs involved! Level of detail Provide clear, simple, and decision-relevant information Technical capabilities to provide detail without meaningful errors. So what’s most important? Helping them to gauge level of uncertainty via trajectory inference, timing estimation. Something they can monitor and update, like how we validate model performance. Info: Think about this from a cognitive perspective. What task are people performing? Uncertainty reduction IF you have their attention. You don’t always, in most cases, you have scattered attention/cognitive load. A “thin-slicing” mode for those familiar with the writing of Malcolm Gladwell, has specific properties. Among them the incredible need for noise reduction, ability to identify *most relevant information* declines. You must be careful with what you’re giving, especially in complex situations like this. A simple and most highly relevant set of information is much much better than thoroughly detailed, technical information! Difficult task: be specific (local), but not dramatically over-detailed. What the world looks like, approximately, to someone responding to a tornado threat.

6 Suggestions from interviewees
Fix county-based sirens so they’re a better cue Their definition of a “false alarm” != ours Tell people to put their shoes on or grab them before seeking shelter Many injuries sustained when leaving their safe place, rescues precluded Tell ambulances to carry fix-a-flat Broadcasters: Be aware of radio audience! Comprehensible spatial references, scale descriptions Especially important when audience grows in the final minutes before a tornado hits, and nearing storm knocks out power: continued understanding is critical Don’t linger too long on tornado video or a zoomed-in still image Keep a map up so people know where the tornado is and is going Give people a small inset map so they know where you’re zoomed in to Show loops so people can infer trajectory

7 Cullman County Population: 80,500
Sirens only turned on for tornado warnings Increase in reports of SLC types after 27th Public on edge Talks to public to advocate preparedness Facebook page starting Jan: ~3,000 “likes” Post other items (road status, etc) in addition to wx info Reduction in phone calls Hams, fax, media, …

8 Marion County Population: ~30,000 Public aware prior to 27th
led to preparedness actions? Emergency response overwhelmed Communication issues , office twitter account (~60 followers) Power loss – “was like we went back in time” Mass notification system: “wish list” ($$) 22 community shelters in county Recovery/response difficult w/ limited resources, diversified industry Tuscaloosa vs. Hackleburg (pop. 1300)

9 Lawrence County Population: ~35,000 Sirens coverage limited
3 main populated areas Moulton, Town Creek, and Browns Ferry Talking siren (Moulton) used on April 27 Once power lost = no sirens NWS  EMA and in warning text – good job of emphasis multi rounds, but public let guard down Overwhelming new interest in shelters FEMA assistance program 5 community shelters approved, 8 more applied for Only one now is in Moulton (pop. ~3200) Facebook account: started after 27th, 1500+

10 Mt Hope (Lawrence Co) Residents
Left: Shelter residents, their friends & neighbors survived in Bottom left: entrance way (note pole that blocked way out) Below: interviewing residents/friends who survived, progress on new house with shelter in background

11 Madison County Population: ~320,000 Close connection to NWS
Most all EMs have this Location helps Madison here Sirens used only for ][ warnings Can only alert entire county Problem of a perceived higher FAR Website, media, Facebook page As with all EMs, strong connection with HAMs Difficulties with allocation of resources Sharing amongst other counties good, but a challenge when multiple rounds of svr wx impact the region over the entire day

12 DeKalb County Population: ~70,000 Good model for others
Sirens sectioned off Helps to limit an increase in perceived FAR Mass notification system Public signs up (free) Phone calls, text messages Facebook page: 2000+ NWS forecasts, warnings, statements Road, power, other conditions 2 way flow of info, reduction in phone calls On 27th though, power loss… Post 27th: SLC reports

13 Rainsville (DeKalb Co) Resident
This was home, and yet they are grateful, hopeful, and optimistic. Above, left: aftermath to home, garage, vehicles Right: shelter where family survived

14 Now vs. Need: Localized warnings 27th well forecasted
SBWs good, but sirens not tied to them in most areas Increases “perceived” FAR 27th well forecasted Shorter term info to public TV, Smartphones, NWR, etc Social media presence – now in nearly all EMA offices Awareness high now, but for how long? Geospatial reference improvements

15 Thank You! Questions?

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