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ODU Profs to Talk About Perceptions, Behavior of Local Residents in Response to Hurricane Threat

rdiaz-rafael-diazRafael Diaz

Josh Behr and Rafael Diaz, research associate professors at Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, will give a talk this month about their ongoing research into the effect of major hurricanes on vulnerable populations in Hampton Roads.

The presentation, "Go or Stay? Hurricane Vulnerability and Evacuation: Perceptions and Behavior of Hampton Roads Residents," will be delivered from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in the auditorium of ODU's E.V. Williams Engineering and Computational Sciences Building (ECSB). It is a networking event under the auspices of ODU's Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative, a multidisciplinary research and outreach effort aimed at mitigating the effects of rising sea levels on Hampton Roads and other communities.

Behr and Diaz's research touches on the complexity inherent in the decision by a local resident to either evacuate or seek shelter in the face of a potentially devastating storm. Drawn from interview data from more than 7,000 Hampton Roads households, the research suggests that myriad factors go into the decision-making calculus of residents, and aren't merely based on economics or geography.

Severe storms such as Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged northeastern coastal and urban areas in October, are fairly low-probability, high­impact events. While many facets of a storm such as this are considered "public risk" because the impact is broad-based and overwhelming, the researchers are attempting to ascertain why people in harm's way sometimes opt not to take simple steps that can substantially lessen their vulnerability.

Non-compliance with evacuation orders and the decision to forgo flood insurance are common ways residents compound the difficulties they face from major storm events. The research by Diaz and Behr aims to find out why citizens make such decisions, and how government bodies and emergency response agencies - which must deal with the aftermath - can help them make choices more prudently.

Those who attend the presentation on Jan. 31 are encouraged to bring their lunch, but coffee and cookies will be served.

The ECSB is located on Elkhorn Avenue. Parking is available in the Elkhorn Avenue Garage at the corner of Elkhorn and 43rd Street.

The university's Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative focuses related expertise from all of its six colleges on the challenges an urban coastal community faces from climate change and rising sea levels, and includes collaboration with government, industry and other academic partners.