Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Susan L. Cutter


More than 1,000 tornadoes strike the United States each year, and no population segment has been impacted to a greater degree than those who live in mobile homes. Despite being only about 7% of the total population, mobile home residents have comprised 40% to 50% of all tornado deaths over the past fifty years. Inhabitants of mobile homes must therefore act quickly to protect themselves when they are threatened by tornadoes. Warning messages instruct mobile home occupants to move to a sturdier building until the storm passes, but what are the residents’ perspectives on this recommended behavior? It is unknown whether mobile home residents plan ahead to protect themselves, how they develop these plans, where they plan to go, and what are some of the difficulties or obstacles that might discourage evacuation behavior.

This research provides new insights to better understand mobile home residents’ perspectives about tornado preparedness and protective actions, and reveals which factors are most influential in their evacuation planning and intentions. The study area is central South Carolina, where mobile homes are integral to the housing stock and casualties from tornadoes pose an appreciable risk. A wide range of data is utilized, from both qualitative interviews and mailed questionnaires, to develop a typology of tornado preparedness and response perspectives. Three types are identified: those who are relatively unconcerned about tornadoes, those who are concerned and informed about tornadoes, and those who anticipate warnings and take protective action. The three types are significantly associated with demographic and household variables such as gender, race, the presence of children in the home, income, housing tenure, and home size and quality, as well as differing according to previous experience, places of residence, and urban/rural context.

Participants’ responses to several hypothetical evacuation scenarios are also presented and the most important factors for predicting tornado evacuation intentions of mobile home residents are identified. Respondents are more likely to evacuate if given fifteen minutes warning than if given five minutes warning, but are not more likely to evacuate if given forty-five minutes compared to the fifteen minute scenario. Evacuation intentions are significantly influenced by several factors, including the evacuation destination, travel time to the destination, previous evacuation experience, having an evacuation plan, race, gender, age, housing tenure, presence of children and pets in the home, expectation of harm, and the urban/rural context. The theoretical and practical implications of the research findings are discussed, along with the study limitations and potential directions for future research.


© 2015, Kevin D. Ash

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