Exploring the Role of Social Networks in Hurricane Preparedness Planning: A Study of Public Housing Residents

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Book Chapter

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Public housing, Disasters, Social vulnerability, Social connections

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Situated on the eastern end of the Gulf Coast, Florida is often ground zero for hurricanes and tropical storms 6 months of the year. In 2017 Hurricane Irma made landfall causing widespread destruction in the Florida Keys before impacting the Tampa Bay region. Weather related hazards threaten communities of all types yet little is known about the impact on public housing developments. This exploratory descriptive study engaged adult residents in public housing in Tampa, Florida to understand the role of social networks in preparedness planning and evacuation decision-making. Surveys were conducted to learn about the dependability and diversity of social networks and their value in disaster preparedness. Findings from the study suggest the integration and mobilization of social connections have important consequences for women of color and individuals with disabilities living in public housing. Furthermore, relationships with family, friends and neighbors may influence both disaster preparedness behavior and evacuation decision-making. Although family members living nearby were perceived as a positive social support, the strongest social connections were with neighbors. Results from this exploratory study are intended to assist Public Housing Authority (PHA) leaders and those in local emergency management to consider policies and practices to promote the use of strong social connections in disaster planning and evacuation decision-making. Recommendations include ways to improve communication and influence evacuation behavior to promote safety and reduce loss of life within public housing developments.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Exploring the Role of Social Networks in Hurricane Preparedness Planning: A Study of Public Housing Residents, in J. M. Collins & J. M. Done (Eds.), Hurricane Risk in a Changing Climate, Springer, p. 323-340