Decision Science Perspectives on Hurricane Vulnerability: Evidence from the 2010–2012 Atlantic Hurricane Seasons
Although the field has seen great advances in hurricane prediction and response, the economic toll from hurricanes on U.S. communities continues to rise. We present data from Hurricanes Earl (2010), Irene (2011), Isaac (2012), and Sandy (2012) to show that individual and household decisions contribute to this vulnerability. From phone surveys of residents in communities threatened by impending hurricanes, we identify five decision biases or obstacles that interfere with residents’ ability to protect themselves and minimize property damage: (1) temporal and spatial myopia, (2) poor mental models of storm risk, (3) gaps between objective and subjective probability estimates, (4) prior storm experience, and (5) social factors. We then discuss ways to encourage better decision making and reduce the economic and emotional impacts of hurricanes, using tools such as decision defaults (requiring residents to opt out of precautions rather than opt in) and tailoring internet-based forecast information so that it is local, specific, and emphasizes impacts rather than probability.
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