“It’s Not Where I’d be Running Like an Idiot for a Small One:” Hurricane Perceptions and Evacuation Decision Making Among Florida Mobile Home Residents

August 2017 (VOL. 35, NO. 2)

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In the eyes of experts, Florida mobile home residents near the Central Gulf coast experience high levels of disaster risk and physical vulnerability, mandating special warnings and protections during hazards. However, this view is not typically shared by mobile home residents themselves who generally consider the risk of hurricanes to be low or acceptable, and who often believe their homes are safe enough, at least up to a certain point. These mundane perceptions, in combination with other factors, rather than “objective” risk and vulnerability, significantly influence how mobile home residents make evacuation decisions. Contributing to the issues of social vulnerability and marginality in disaster research, this paper offers a qualitative analysis of 103 interviews with Florida mobile home households conducted between 2008 and 2010. Besides demonstrating patterns of risk and (physical) vulnerability perception among study participants, and evaluating their impact on evacuation decisions, the analysis highlights the need to account for human agency and interpretation in scholarly disaster discourse, proposing symbolic interactionism as a relevant theoretical framework.