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CT Residents Need Better Preparation and Response for Coastal Storms

New report describes public attitudes and behaviors towards past and future storms along Connecticut coast

A new report released today has some sobering findings about how prepared residents of coastal Connecticut are for severe coastal storms. For example, three quarters of Connecticut’s coastal residents living in the flood zones have never seen a local evacuation map-and most (70%) were unaware that their home is in an evacuation zone.  Hurricane Perceptions of Coastal Connecticut Residents by Drs. Jennifer Marlon and Anthony Leiserowitz describes public attitudes and behaviors towards past and future hurricanes and tropical storms.
The findings are based on a representative survey of 1,130 households along the Connecticut coast. Residents were randomly selected from evacuation Zones A and B as defined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Zone A is closest to the shoreline). The survey is part of the NOAA Sea Grant Coastal Storm Awareness Program (CSAP) comprised of 10 research projects related to the states most impacted by Superstorm Sandy, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

The Yale survey revealed that most Connecticut (CT) coastal residents are ill-prepared for the significant safety and economic threats posed by severe coastal storms. Among the highlights:

  • Only 21% of coastal CT residents in Zone A (closest to the shoreline) say they would evacuate in the event of a Category 2 hurricane if they did NOT receive an official notice; about six in ten (58%) say they would evacuate if advised to by an official.
  • About one third (34%) of coastal CT residents believe it would be safer to stay at home during a Category 2 hurricane; slightly less (31%) believe it would be safer to evacuate, and a final third (35%) say
  • Only about one third (31%) of coastal CT residents have evacuated at least once to avoid a storm in the 2009-2015 time period
  • About 22% of coastal CT residents evacuated for Superstorm Sandy. In Zone A, 27% of coastal CT residents evacuated, whereas 11% in Zone B did so. Of the Zone A evacuees, 82% left before the storm arrived or just as it was arriving.

“Despite the enormous threat, advance notice, and remarkably accurate surge forecasts for Superstorm Sandy, the public response included many instances of confusion and poor decision-making” said Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication at Yale University.

The primary goal of the project is to provide emergency planners and responders a better understanding of their target audiences.

Advancing storm preparedness and communication is vital for this region as the US National Climate Assessment predicts that hurricanes on the eastern US coast will grow worse in coming decades, the authors note.
To download a PDF of the full report, please visit the Yale Climate Communication website.
The Coastal Storm Awareness Program is a joint effort between Connecticut Sea Grant, New Jersey Sea Grant, and New York Sea Grant. Through this program, the programs have awarded funds totaling $1.4 million to support ten social science research projects to improve community understanding and response to coastal storm hazard information.  The CSAP projects are being funded by NOAA through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.  

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