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Poll: Most coastal residents won't evacuate

Most feel prepared for hurricane

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POSTED: August 8, 2007 5:03 a.m.

MIAMI ‑ About one in three people living in Southern coastal areas said they would ignore hurricane evacuation orders if a storm threatened their community, up from about one in four last year, according to a new poll.

The survey released early Tuesday found the most common reasons for not evacuating were the same ones that topped last year's Harvard University poll: People believe their homes are safe and well-built, that roads would be too crowded and that fleeing would be dangerous. Slightly more than one in four also said they would be reluctant to leave behind a pet.

Robert Blendon, the Harvard professor who directed the survey, said the mild 2006 Atlantic hurricane season probably put more coastal residents at ease.

"It just shows how people can become complacent if they're not immediately threatened," Blendon said.

Residents were asked how worried they are about hurricanes, what supplies they have in their homes, how confident they are about being rescued and how else they had prepared for possible storms. The poll found 78 percent felt prepared if a major hurricane struck their community in the next six months.

Thirty-one percent of respondents said they would not evacuate. Another 5 percent said their decision would depend on the circumstances.

The telephone poll surveyed more than 5,000 people 18 or older in coastal areas of eight Southern states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. All participants lived within 20 miles of the coast.

This year's survey differed from last year's by including more respondents and restricting the survey area to within 20 miles of the coast instead of 50 miles. Researchers went back to the 2006 data and separated respondents who lived less than 20 miles from the coast for comparison. Last year, 23 percent of those respondents said they would not evacuate.

The survey also looked specifically at about 500 residents of the New Orleans area, which was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The survey found that six in 10 people in that area did not know the location of an evacuation shelter, compared with four in 10 elsewhere.

New Orleans respondents also were less confident they would be rescued if necessary, 54 percent as opposed to 69 percent elsewhere.

Harvard School of Public Health researchers designed the study, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was conducted between June 18 and July 10 by International Communications Research of Media, Pa., and had a sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
 

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