CSAP Projects

The following are the Coastal Storm Awareness Program projects administered by NJSGC.

Is storm surge scary? The influence of hazard, impact, and fear-based messages and individual differences on responses to hurricane risks in the USA

Principal Investigators: Rebecca E. Morss, Cara L. Cuite, Julie L. Demuth, William K. Hallman, Rachael L. Shwom

Lead Institution: National Center for Atmospheric Research

Project Description: This article uses data from an online survey-based experiment to investigate how risk communications and individual differences influence people’s responses to approaching hurricane risks. Survey data were collected from 1716 residents of coastal areas of the USA affected by Hurricane Sandy. Respondents were randomly assigned to receive a combination of textual messages about a hypothetical approaching hurricane, including hazard-based, impact-based, and fear-based messages. The analysis examines how the experimental messages influenced respondents’ evacuation intentions, risk perceptions, efficacy beliefs, and perceptions of the information and its source. The influence of non-message factors, including respondents’ actual and perceived geographical exposure to hurricane-related risks, evacuation planning, and hurricane-related experiences, is also investigated. The results indicate that the high-impact and fear messages increased evacuation intentions, risk perceptions, and response efficacy, but the effects were small. The hazard message manipulations did not significantly influence most of the dependent variables examined; in particular, neither of the two storm surge messages tested increased evacuation intentions or risk perceptions relative to the wind-only or flood message. There were also no significant differences in message effects among respondents who lived or thought they lived in areas at higher risk. Further, several individual difference variables examined influenced evacuation intentions more than the message variations. Overall, experience evacuating for Sandy was the strongest predictor of evacuation intentions. These results indicate the importance of designing and evaluating hazard risk communications in the context of the other messages people are receiving and the individual differences that influence protective decision making.

Click here to download the final report.

Project Contact: Cara L. Cuite • Department of Human Ecology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey • Phone: 848-932-4544 • Email: cuite@rutgers.edu

They Had the Facts,Why Didn’t They Act?: Understanding and Improving Public Response to NWS Coastal Flooding Forecasts

Principal Investigators: Rachel Hogan Carr, Dr. Burrell Montz, Gary Szatkowski, Lisa Auermuller, Dr. Susan Frankel, and Elizabeth Goldman.

Lead Institution: Nurture Nature Center.

Project Description: New Jersey coastal community residents receive information about storm risk from a variety of products and sources in different formats at different times prior to a storm event. The complexity and variety of information leads to confusion and could decrease people’s understanding of the full spectrum of risks they face. Exposure to a briefing document, which combines a variety of information and provides both graphical information and narrative explanations, will improve understanding by the public and emergency management officials regarding the intensity and range of possible outcomes from an impending coastal storm, and improve the likelihood of people taking evacuation order seriously or other proper warning response actions.

Click here to download the final report.

Project Contact: Rachel Hogan Carr • Nurture Nature Center, Easton, Pa. • Phone: 610-253-4432 • Email: rhogan@nurturenature.org

Best Practices in Coastal Storm Risk Communication

Principal Investigators: Dr. Cara Cuite, Dr. Karen O’Neill, Dr. William Hallman, Dr. David Robinson, Dr. Steven Decker, and Dr. Christopher Obropta.

Lead Institution: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Project Description: To assist emergency managers and other communicators deliver the most effective messages possible, this study will survey coastal residents to empirically test the effectiveness of a range of message variables including personalization, storm probability formats and social media messaging. This information will be the basis for developing a validated and tested best practices guide that will serve as an important tool for emergency managers to keep residents of their municipalities safe.

Project Contact: Dr. Cara Cuite • Department of Human Ecology • School of Environmental and Biological Sciences• Rutgers University • 55 Dudley Rd • New Brunswick, N.J. 08901 • Phone: 848-932-4544 • Email: cuite@aesop.rutgers.edu

Adolescent and Family Decision Making In Time of Disaster

Principal Investigators: Dr. Cristina Hoven, Dr. George Musa, and Dr. Lawrence Amsel.

Lead Institution: Columbia University.

Project Description: A major goal of this study will be to obtain knowledge that will facilitate the creation of educational materials, programs and procedures that improve disaster related family-based decision-making. Creating programs that help adults and adolescents identify their own decision-making and family negotiating styles, know their strengths and weaknesses, and appreciate how each individual impacts the family in disaster situations, can address important human-factor issues that may hinder public efforts to save lives in time of disaster.

Project Contact: Dr. Christina Hoven • 1051 Riverside Drive • Rm. 5218 • Unit 43 • New York, NY 10032 • Phone: 212-960-5688 • Email: ch42@columbia.edu

~Additional CSAP-Supported Projects~

Plans and Prospects for Coastal Flooding in Four Communities Affected by Sandy

Principal Investigators: Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, Baruch Fischhoff, and Ben Strauss.

Lead Institution: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Project Description: The risk of coastal flooding is increasing due to more frequent intense storm events, rising sea levels, and more people living in flood-prone areas. Although private adaptation measures can reduce damage and risk, most people living in risk-prone areas take only a fraction of those measures voluntarily. The present study examines relationships among individuals’ beliefs and actions regarding flood-related risks based on in-depth interviews and structured surveys in communities deeply affected by Superstorm Sandy. The authors find that residents recognize the risk of coastal flooding and expect it to increase, although they appear to underestimate by how much. Although interview participants typically cited climate change as affecting the risks that they face, survey respondents’ acceptance of climate change was unrelated to their willingness to tolerate coastal flooding risks, their beliefs about the effectiveness of community-level mitigation measures, or their willingness to take individual actions. Respondents who reported greater social support also reported both greater tolerance for flood risks and greater confidence in community adaptation measures, suggesting an important, but complex role of personal connections in collective resilience—both keeping people in place and helping them to survive there. Thus, residents were aware of the risks and willing to undertake both personal and community actions, if convinced of their effectiveness, regardless of their acceptance of climate

Click here to download the final report.

Project Contact: Gabrielle Wong-Parodi • Department of Engineering and Public Policy • Carnegie Mellon University • Baker Hall 129 • Pittsburgh, PA 15213 • Phone: 510-316-1631 • Email: gwongpar@cmu.edu

Efficacy and Authority of the Message Sender During Emergency Evacuations: A Mixed Methods Study

Principal Investigators: Elisabeth J. Ploran, Mary Anne Trasciatti, and E. Christa Farmer.

Lead Institution: Journal of Applied Communication Research.

Project Description: To understand why coastal residents do not always evacuate before storms, a pair of studies analyzed evacuation decision-making among residents of Long Beach, NY and surrounding municipalities on Long Island, NY via a mixed methodology approach. First, residents who lived in Long Beach, NY during ‘Superstorm’ (hurricane turned post-tropical cyclone) Sandy in October 2012 were interviewed about their evacuation decision. Second, 34 pre-storm messages were developed and administered
to residents of the same area: faced with a hypothetical oncoming hurricane, respondents indicated after each message whether they would evacuate. In the interviews, residents spoke more about friends and family than traditional authority figures; survey results, however, imply that residents are more likely to evacuate given messages from traditional authority figures. This can be resolved with the Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion, which suggests that motivation and emotional state influence information processing. Implications for actual emergency
message formation are discussed.

Click here to download the final report.

Project Contact: Elisabeth J. Ploran • Hofstra University • School of Medicine • Hempstead, NY 11549 • Phone: 516-463-7516 • Email: Elisabeth.J.Ploran@hofstra.edu

Improving Coastal Storm Evacuation Messages 

Principal Investigators: Cara L. Cuite, Rachel L. Shwom, William K. Hallman, Rebecca E. Morss, and Julie L. Demuth.

Lead Institution: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Project Description: Evacuation before severe coastal storms is a critical tool for keeping coastal residents safe. Effective messaging of evacuations could help save lives, but there is little evidence-based guidance on the advantages or disadvantages of specific messaging. Ideally, evacuation messages would convince those most at risk to evacuate and those who do not need to evacuate to stay in their homes. Using an online survey of 1716 coastal residents in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, this study randomly assigned respondents to message conditions in each of two hypothetical storm scenarios. Results from the first scenario indicate that those who saw mandatory evacuation messages had higher evacuation intentions than those who saw advisory messages, and both of those messages resulted in slightly higher evacuation intentions than voluntary evacuation messages. However, voluntary messages resulted in lower evacuation intentions for those that did not live in evacuation zones compared to those who did live in evacuation zones, which may help reduce shadow evacuation. In the second scenario, identifying an evacuation area by the municipality name or the individual’s street name resulted in similar evacuation intentions across all participants. Messages identifying an evacuation area by ‘‘flood zone’’ or ‘‘flood-prone area’’ resulted in equally high evacuation intentions for those who believe they live in a flood zone, but these messages suppressed evacuation intentions for those who do not believe they live in a flood zone. This indicates that such messages could also be an effective approach for reducing shadow evacuation. Implications for risk communicators and emergency managers are discussed.

Click here to download the final report.

Project Contact: Cara L. Cuite • Rutgers University • School of Environmental and Biological Sciences • Department of Human Ecology  • New Brunswick, NJ 08901 • Phone: 848-932-4544 • Email: cuite@rutgers.edu

Motivating Action under Uncertain Conditions: Enhancing Emergency Briefings during Coastal Storms

Lead Investigators: Rachel Hogan Carr, Burrell Montz, Kathryn Semmens, Keri Maxfield, Stephanie Hoekstra, and Elizabeth Goldman.

Lead Institution: Nurture Nature Center.

Project Description: Coastal flood risk communication is most effective at motivating action when the medium and timing of delivery provide understandable information with clear directives when residents need it most. The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) has many useful coastal flood forecast tools and products, but how and when this information is delivered are of critical importance. To assess how coastal residents understand and interpret NWS coastal flood products and the best mechanisms for delivery, five focus groups (including residents and emergency managers) in Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey were conducted. These focus groups employed a scenario-based approach that walked participants through the seven days leading up to Hurricane Sandy. Results support the use of emergency briefing packages as a preferred method for disseminating storm and flood risk information. However, changes to improve visual clarity, provide more succinct information, and localize messages must be undertaken for risk communication to be effective. Further, while residents prefer storm information four to five days prior to storm landfall, emergency managers preferred information seven days prior in order to have time to disseminate information to the community. Findings from this study, which include proposed revisions to NWS products, are expected to improve
risk communication and community resiliency in the face of coastal storm threats.

Click here to download the final report.

Project Contact: Rachel Hogan Carr • Nurture Nature Center, Easton, Pa. • Phone: 610-253-4432 • Email: rhogan@nurturenature.org