Social Factors and Evacuation Vulnerability: An Application in Pinellas County, Florida

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Evacuation, evacuation assistance, evacuation vulnerability indexes

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Evacuation decisions by people at risk are dependent on a variety of social factors that can define the success and failure of such practices. Many previous studies have identified the role of these social factors in decision making on an individual basis, which has helped us understand evacuation. In reality, however, these factors act jointly to influence decisions. Thus, measuring the roles of individual factors and combining them can help detect areas most in need of evacuation assistance by the emergency managers. This research identified those areas of high evacuation assistance need for Pinellas County, Florida, based on indexes of accepted social vulnerability factors derived from census block data. From a final index that combined nine variables, four particularly vulnerable areas were identified. Census blocks in Largo were vulnerable primarily due to demographics, structural conditions, and limited accessibility to resources. The blocks in South St. Petersburg were vulnerable because of groups of concern. The blocks of Safety Harbor and Pinellas Park were vulnerable because of demographic and structural conditions, and limited accessibility to resources influenced the blocks in Pinellas Park. These results can be used by emergency managers in resource allocation, risk reduction, and providing special services. Further research should test the validity of the combined index in effecting efficient evacuation.

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Papers in Applied Geography, v. 4, issue 2, p. 123-136