JOURNAL FILE A. Allan Schmid September 17, 1999

Hurricane Evacuation, Learning and Reasons

Hurricane Floyd was the occasion for the largest movement of people from their homes in our time. Safety officials worry about the people who refuse to evacuate even when warned and they worry about those who did evacuate and then return to find that little happened.

Will those who spent long hours in traffic and then return to find that little happened not evacuate in the future? People often learn from their immediate experience and project that into the future. So if nothing happened, they might conclude that nothing will. This is like the flood plain occupant who has never experienced a flood deciding to not by insurance. Research has found that people who evacuate once are likely to evacuate again. They apparently learn that the evacuation was not so bad, they learn what to expect and how to deal with it. Or, this behavior is consistent with the view that people do not like to admit mistakes. If they evacuated, it must have been worth it and not to evacuate next time is to admit a mistake previously.