The Private and Social Benefits of Preparing For Natural Disasters
November 2014 (VOL. 32, NO. 3)
In this paper we inquire about the consequences of preparing for hurricanes for individuals and the larger community. Are there collective action benefits from individual-level preparation activities; do the actions individuals take to prepare themselves for a pending hurricane have social benefits for the entire community? We identify shadow evacuations – persons evacuating from areas not designated for evacuation--as a significant social cost that might be mitigated by individual preparation for severe weather. We test our hypotheses with data from a survey conducted with residents of Harris County, Texas, after Hurricane Ike in 2008. We find that preparation has a negative effect on personal injury and property damage and that preparation has a significant and negative effect on the likelihood individuals evacuate, especially residents of non-evacuation areas (low risk areas). Our findings have strong implications on how emergency planners and local officials should prepare for and communicate with the public before severe weather episodes.