Poll: More coastal residents would not evacuate for hurricane

Published 7:19 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2007

About one in three people in Southern coastal areas said they would ignore government hurricane evacuation orders, up from about one in four last year, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The most common reasons respondents gave for not evacuating were the same ones that topped last year’s Harvard University poll: believing that their home is safe and well-built, that roads would be too crowded and that fleeing would be dangerous.

Residents also were asked how worried they are about hurricanes, what supplies they have in their homes, how confident they are about being rescued if necessary and how else they had prepared for possible storms.

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Robert Blendon, the Harvard professor who directed the survey said he expected more people to say they would not evacuate after a mild 2006 Atlantic hurricane season.

“It just shows how people can become complacent if they’re not immediately threatened,” Blendon said.

In addition to finding that 31 percent of respondents would not evacuate, the study found another 5 percent said it would depend on the circumstances.

The poll was conducted by telephone and surveyed more than 5,000 people 18 or older in coastal areas in eight Southern states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. All respondents lived within 20 miles of their state’s coastline. The poll was conducted between June 18 and July 10.

This year’s survey differed from last year’s by including more respondents and restricting the survey area to within 20 miles of the coast instead of 50. Researchers went back to the 2006 data and segregated respondents who lived less than 20 miles from the coast for comparison on how many would evacuate. Last year, 23 percent of respondents within 20 miles from the coast said they would not evacuate.

The survey also looked specifically at approximately 500 residents of the New Orleans metropolitan area, which was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The survey found that six in 10 people in that area did not know the location of an evacuation shelter, compared with four in 10 elsewhere. New Orleans respondents also were less confident that they would be rescued if necessary — 54 percent of peopler were confident they would be rescued as opposed to 69 percent of people elsewhere.

Other survey results:

— 78 percent of respondents said they felt prepared if a major hurricane were to strike their community during the next six months

— Respondents were split on whether they were worried about a major hurricane striking within six months, with 14 percent very worried and 47 percent worried to some degree.

— 27 percent of respondents said one reason they would not or might not evacuate was that they would not want to leave a pet.

Harvard School of Public Health researchers designed the study, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was conducted by International Communications Research of Media, Pa., and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. Last week, the Poplarville board of aldermen began the process to issue bonds to pay for new streets city-wide.