Rethinking Warning Compliance and Complacency by Examining How People Manage Risk and Vulnerability during Real-World Tornado Threats
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Rethinking Warning Compliance and Complacency by Examining How People Manage Risk and Vulnerability during Real-World Tornado Threats

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  • Journal Title:
    Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
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    The weather community has a keen interest in whether or not people comply with tornado warnings by taking shelter when a tornado threatens. When people do not seek shelter, a commonly attributed reason is that they are complacent due to overwarning, false alarms, routine exposure and experience with tornadoes and warnings, or time between damaging events. Yet, there is a lack of research that focuses on whether people are actually complacent, i.e., whether they ignore or are unwilling to prepare for the threat. We explore whether people exhibit these indicators of complacency by examining how people assessed their risk and responded during real-world tornado threats and how vulnerability influenced these processes. Our analysis is based on in-person interviews with 23 survivors of two deadly EF3 tornadoes that occurred approximately 50 miles apart and within 12 h of each other. Contrary to a threat-disbelieving, threat-ignoring, nonpreparing, and thus complacent public, we instead found that people actively managed their risk from the tornadoes, meaning they actively attended to, evaluated, and responded to the tornado risk as it evolved in space and time. We further found, however, that many people felt limited or lack of efficacy to respond due to static and situational factors that resulted in them having no safe place to seek protection from the threat. Based on this rich, nuanced analysis, we provide recommendations about important ways that the weather community and its partners can mitigate the risks people face from tornadoes, now and in the long term.
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    Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 103, E1553–E1572
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