Predicting Evacuation in Two Major Disasters: Risk Perception, Social Influence, and Access to Resources1


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    This research was supported by Grant No. 2 ROI MH45069 from the Violence and Traumatic Stress Research Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, Fran H. Norris, Principal Investigator.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jasmin Riad, Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716. e-mail:


The complex and somewhat bewildering phenomenon of why people sometimes decide not to evacuate from a dangerous situation is influenced by a combination of individual characteristics and 3 basic social psychological processes: (a) risk perception, (b) social influence, and (c) access to resources. This study used a combined sample of 777 adults interviewed after Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew. Although numerous variables significantly predicted evacuation, much variance in this behavior still remained unexplained. Different population subgroups gave different reasons for not evacuating (e.g., severeness of storm, territoriality). A multifaceted and tailored approach to both individuals and communities is needed; a simple warning is often not enough.