A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

Understanding Tornado Warnings, False Alarms, and Complacency, and Proposing Theory-Directed Solutions for Effective Warnings


Understanding Tornado Warnings, False Alarms, and Complacency, and Proposing Theory-Directed Solutions for Effective Warnings

Investigators: 
Other START Researchers: 
Holly Roberts

Project Details

Abstract: 

This project attempts to better understand complacency and false alarms during the threat of tornadoes. Public risk increases as individuals become more complacent to tornado alerts, which is a suspected outcome of false alarms. However, timing of tornadic events, repeated exposure to alerts, and difficulty to predict weather phenomena create a complex set of challenges with regards to effectively alerting at-risk communities.

To address the issues of complacency and false alarms with regards to tornadoes in the Southeastern United States, this project examines false alarm rates (FARs) in relation to tornado awareness, how communities receive tornado warnings, a general level of complacency among communities, the magnitude of previously experienced severe weather events having an impact on the overall level of complacency of individuals, and how emergency managers might better work with the public to address concerns of complacency and false alarms.

Methodology: 

This mixed-methods study employs a comprehensive open-source literature review, focus groups, and a large-scale regional survey to provide a rich understanding for three communities in the southeastern United States (Tuscaloosa, AL; Lexington, KY; and Winston-Salem, NC). These data will be analyzed in a series of qualitative and quantitative reports with techniques such as grounded theory, inferential analysis techniques, and group comparison analyses.

Timeframe

Project Period: 
October 2015 to September 2016