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USC hazards experts assist state with evacuation survey

Coastal residents are urged to respond to an upcoming mail survey about hurricane evacuation behavior that will help the state better prepare for and respond to hurricanes. University of South Carolina geographers, planners at the S.C. Emergency Management Division and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are conducting the study.

A pre-addressed and stamped return envelope will be included with the questionnaire so residents can return the survey promptly.

Residents in Jasper, Beaufort, Colleton, Charleston, Georgetown and Horry counties will receive the survey by early next week said Dr. Susan Cutter, a geography professor and director of USC’s Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute.

“It is critical to understand likely residential behavior in response to a hurricane affecting the South Carolina coast,” said Cutter, one of the world’s leading scholars on natural and manmade hazards and disasters. “This information is vital to helping local and state emergency managers better plan for evacuations. That includes determining the best location for shelters, ensuring transportation routes can accommodate mass evacuations and re-entry procedures before the next big storm impacts South Carolina.”

Cutter said South Carolina has added many residents to its already heavily populated coastal zone since the last Hurricane Evacuation Study was updated in 2000.

She and a team of geographers in the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, part of USC’s College of Arts and Sciences, will compile and analyze the results for officials in local, state and federal emergency-management roles.

“This survey will give us insight on the expected behavior of residents in storm-surge zones. We don’t know how much information residents have, whether they know what to do or if they have ever experienced a hurricane before,” said Dr. Chris Emrich, a research assistant professor with the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute. “Most surveys don’t provide that level of detail. Our survey lets us do that fine-grain analysis.”

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