Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? Or Should I Wait and See? Influences on Wildfire Evacuation Decisions

TitleShould I Stay or Should I Go Now? Or Should I Wait and See? Influences on Wildfire Evacuation Decisions
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMcCaffrey, S
Secondary AuthorsWilson, R
Tertiary AuthorsKonar, A
JournalRisk Analysis
VolumeOnline early
Keywordsevacuation, risk assessment, technical reports and journal articles

As climate change has contributed to longer fire seasons and populations living in fire-prone ecosystems increase, wildfires have begun to affect a growing number of people. As a result, interest in understanding the wildfire evacuation decision process has increased. Of particular interest is understanding why some people leave early, some choose to stay and defend their homes, and others wait to assess conditions before making a final decision. Individuals who tend to wait and see are of particular concern given the dangers of late evacuation. To understand what factors might influence different decisions, we surveyed homeowners in three areas in the United States that recently experienced a wildfire. The Protective Action Decision Model was used to identify a suite of factors previously identified as potentially relevant to evacuation decisions. Our results indicate that different beliefs about the efficacy of a particular response or action (evacuating or staying to defend), differences in risk attitudes, and emphasis on different cues to act (e.g., official warnings, environmental cues) are key factors underlying different responses. Further, latent class analysis indicates there are two general classes of individuals: those inclined to evacuate and those inclined to stay, and that a substantial portion of each class falls into the wait and see category.