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Factors influencing the decision to evacuate or shelter in place: Follow-up of Hurricane Katrina

Joanne C. Langan, PhD, RN, CNE, Kara M. Christopher, MS, MPH


Most of the fatalities experienced during Hurricane Katrina involved adults of more than 65 years old. Most of these deaths occurred due to a failure to evacuate their homes.
Objective: To determine barriers and facilitators for evacuation.
Design/participants: A paper-and-pencil survey was conducted to a convenience sample of 224 older adults.
Setting: Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Main outcome measures: Deterrents and facilitators for home evacuation and strategies to encourage evacuation during disasters.
Measurements: Descriptive and χ2 statistics were used to analyze the data.
Results: A major reason for sheltering in place was lack of trust of information provided by the media and county officials. Those who were likely to evacuate feared for their safety and had no pets. Interestingly, the only statistically significant (p = 0.004) characteristic of participants was household annual income. Those who earned less than $20,000 were 2.5 times more likely to evacuate than those with a higher income (odds ratio = 2.56, 95% confidence interval: 1.33, 4.89). Those who made more than $20,000 did not differ in their evacuation decision; they were just as likely to evacuate as they were to shelter in place.
Conclusions: Emergency managers and disaster planners must recognize common facilitators and deterrents for evacuation, as well as suggested strategies to increase citizens’ willingness to evacuate. Strategies include receiving accurate information about impending storms, assistance with preparations to leave homes, transportation, affordable motel rates, and information along evacuation routes about shelter vacancies, food, water, gasoline, and toilet facilities.


elderly, emergency preparedness, home evacuation, vulnerable population, hurricanes

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