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USF studying evacuation behavior after Hurricane Ian

Researchers aim to understand what drives people to evacuate or not in response to a natural disaster.

TAMPA, Fla. — The University of South Florida researchers are looking into why some people may choose to ride out a storm and ignore evacuation orders.

A team of researchers will be conducting interviews and surveying anyone affected by Hurricane Ian.

The goal is to ensure the team has the most up-to-date information on people's decision-making process throughout various communities, Elizabeth Dunn, an instructor with USF Health, said.

"Our goal is to reach a wide demographic," Dunn said. "We want to understand a wide range of vulnerabilities and for coastal communities, as well as those inland communities that were affected.

"For instance, what drives people not to act before it becomes too late or the barriers preventing some from leaving their homes."

Data collected will be shared with emergency managers and may help shed light on ways to better communicate with the public.  

Surveys will be disseminated, along with interviews at rest stops along I-75 north and with people who were in shelters wishing to share their experiences.

Researchers have already looked at evacuation behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, similar data have been collected by researchers during Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, USF stated. 

Dunn said their latest survey was able to take in 7,000 responses. 

Results for this new study after Hurricane Ian may be out by the end of the year, she said. 

In the meantime, Dunn said it's important for the public to note that hurricane season is still here.

"We have to be prepared for a potential threat," Dunn said. "We need to be very cognitive aware and make sure that we're prepared."

Most people who died by Ian were because of drowning, reports show.

As of Friday evening, there are 94 deaths connected to the hurricane confirmed by medical examiners from several counties across the state, including:

  • Charlotte – 2
  • Collier – 5
  • Hardee – 4
  • Hendry – 2
  • Hillsborough – 1
  • Lake – 1
  • Lee – 50
  • Manatee – 3
  • Martin – 1
  • Monroe – 7
  • Osceola – 2
  • Polk – 2
  • Putnam – 3
  • Sarasota – 6
  • Volusia – 5

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