Hurricane Preparedness among University Residential Housing Assistants and Staff

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Communications/decision making, Emergency preparedness, Risk assessment, Societal impacts

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While much research has been invested in understanding preparedness among emergency managers during natural disasters, substantially less attention has been devoted to evaluating the level of understanding and preparedness among nonemergency management employees who must direct others during natural disasters. Among those second-tier leaders are university residential housing staff, who are responsible for the safety of thousands of youth who may be far from the influence of their family. Using varimax-rotated principal components analysis, an instrument was developed for assessing the knowledge and practices of such residential housing staff at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in the wake of Hurricane Isaac (2012). Relationships were derived between hurricane preparedness and general knowledge of hurricane meteorology, experience with past hurricanes, preparation and threat anxiety, duration of experience of the housing staff and in residing in Baton Rouge, whether the respondent’s primary address is within 120 km of a coast, and gender, ethnicity, and automobile access. Only hurricane knowledge and preparation anxiety were found to influence the preparedness construct significantly. Results suggest that the university may act as a buffer to university resident assistants and residential life professionals and, by extension, to student populations from typical vulnerabilities that the general population experiences in disaster scenarios. This research may have implications in other large organizations in which leaders or decision-makers have great influence on employees or other populations to ensure that the organizational leadership is fully equipped when faced with an oncoming hurricane or other disaster threat.

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Weather, Climate, and Society, v. 10, issue 2, p. 341-359