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Assessing natural disaster survivor evacuation attitudes to inform social policy

Kenneth David Strang (School of Business and Economics, State University of New York, Queensbury, New York, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 8 July 2014




The literature was reviewed to locate the most relevant social-psychology theories, factors, and instruments in order to measure New York State resident attitudes and social norms (SNs) concerning their intent to evacuate Hurricane Irene in the summer of 2011. The purpose of this paper is to develop a model which could be generalized to improve social policy determination for natural disaster preparation.


A post-positivist ideology was employed, quantitative data were collected from an online survey (nominal, binary, interval, and ratio), and inferential statistical techniques were applied to test theory-deductive hypotheses (Strang, 2013b). Since the questions for each hypothesized factor were customized using a pilot for this study, exploratory factor analysis were conducted to ensure the item validity and reliabilities were compared to a priori benchmarks (Gill et al., 2010). Correlation analysis along with logistic and multiple regression were applied to test the hypothesis at the 95 percent confidence level.


A statistically significant model was developed using correlation, stepwise regression, ordinary least squares regression, and logistic regression. Only two composite factors were needed to capture 55.4 percent of the variance for behavioral intent (BI) to evacuate. The model predicted 43.9 percent of the evacuation decisions, with 13.3 percent undecided, leaving 42.8 incorrectly classified), using logistic regression (n=401 surveyed participants).

Research limitations/implications

Municipal planners can use this information by creating surveys and collecting BI indicators from citizens, during risk planning, in advance of a natural disaster. The concepts could also apply to man-made disasters. Planners can use the results from these surveys to predict the overall likelihood that residents with home equity (e.g. home owners) intend to leave when given a public evacuation order.

Practical implications

Once municipal planners know the indicators for personal attitudes (PAs) (in particular) and SNs, they could sort these by region, to identify areas where the PAs were too low. Then additional evacuation preparation efforts can be focussed on those regions. According to these findings, the emphasis must be focussed on a PA basis, describing the extreme negative impacts of previous disasters, rather than using credible spokespersons, to persuade individuals to leave.


A new model was created with a “near miss disaster” severity factor as an extension to the theory of reasoned action.



David Strang, K. (2014), "Assessing natural disaster survivor evacuation attitudes to inform social policy", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 34 No. 7/8, pp. 485-510.



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