USF study aims to understand how the pandemic will impact behavior this hurricane season

With looser restrictions and widespread vaccine accessibility, researchers at the University of South Florida want to know how those changes might influence your family’s hurricane plan this year.

"In 2020, I think we were all a little bit concerned that we didn’t want people outside our immediate family staying in our houses because we didn’t understand enough about how to protect ourselves," said Dr. Jennifer Collins, professor and researcher at the University of South Florida.

A survey last June showed with a fresh pandemic and little known about the virus, 74% of the more than 7,000 people surveyed viewed their risk of being in a shelter during the pandemic as more dangerous than staying put through a hurricane.

The pandemic also changed how people were asked to evacuate along the hard-hit Gulf Coast. Many were urged to stay in a hotel or with family and use shelters as a last resort.

This year, Dr. Collins is leading another USF Study into how recent progress in the pandemic and access to vaccinations might have changed how coastal residents would act in the event of a storm.

The information gathered from the survey will help emergency managers target their messaging and communication to the public.

The more people participate, the better the snapshot they’ll have of our area.

"They don’t want to just know about one sector of our population. They want to know all age groups, different genders, different income levels because all that affects evacuation," Collins said.

The survey has questions surrounding your likelihood to evacuate in the event of a storm and how you perceive your risk of getting COVID-19 or giving it to a family member.

The survey takes about 5 minutes. It’s available in English and Spanish through the links below.