Date of this Version
APRIL 2017 JAUERNI C AND VAN DEN BROEKE
Few studies show how university students perceive and respond to tornado warnings. Lacking in the literature are investigations of what influences perceptions of tornado risk among this population and how these perceptions may influence actions. Through an online survey of 640 undergraduates enrolled at a large university in Nebraska, significant relationships were found between student demographics, perceptions, and response actions. Tornado mythology relevant to the local city influenced perceptions so that students felt the city was less at risk than surrounding rural land. Confirming risk before sheltering remained popular, with some students choosing to never seek shelter during a warning. International students were more likely to initially seek shelter during a warning but had difficulty interpreting warning polygons or accurately choosing the best safety actions. Tornado-related education resulted in international students being more likely to have safety plans and shelter in more appropriate locations. Most domestic students correctly identified safe areas in which to shelter, but fewer knew the precise meaning of a tornado warning polygon. Parents/guardians and the school were the most popular tornado knowledge sources for domestic students, while friends and self education were popular with international students. Respondents seemed willing to learn more about tornadoes and perceived a lack of tornado-related resources available on campus. This implies that more thorough tornado education and information dissemination on university campuses is warranted. Faster personalization of risk, dispelling local myths, and educating those new to tornado-prone locations should be emphasized.