Studying the Usage of Social Media and Mobile Technology during Extreme Events and Their Implications for Evacuation Decisions: A Case Study of Hurricane Sandy

August 2016 (VOL. 34, NO. 2)

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Mobile technology, and the changing composition and purpose of social networks enabled by mobile devices have begun to noticeably impact the way self-evacuees prepare for and execute evacuations. We surveyed residents of New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy with results showing the ubiquity of mobile technology and its usage stability across social groups. During evacuation periods, increases in the use of microblogging sites were observed suggesting the importance of technology in evacuation contexts. Though traditional communication (e.g., in-person and t.v./radio) maintained high influence in decision planning, individuals exhibited a higher likelihood to accept and use information obtained through social media and mobile networks than has previously been documented. Using a k-means clustering analysis, we classified users based on their reported use of mobile technology during Sandy. Results show five distinct classification sets with varying degrees of mobile technology ownership and usage, further highlighting a changing paradigm in evacuation behaviour spurred by mobile technology.