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Understanding California wildfire evacuee behavior and joint choice making

  • Author(s): Wong, Stephen D, PhD;
  • Broader, Jacquelyn C;
  • Walker, Joan L, PhD;
  • Shaheen, Susan A, PhD
  • et al.
Abstract

For evacuations, people must make the critical decision to evacuate or stay followed by a multi-dimensional choice composed of concurrent decisions of their departure time, transportation mode, route, destination, and shelter type. These choices have important impacts on transportation response and evacuation outcomes. While extensive research has been conducted on hurricane evacuation behavior, little is known about wildfire evacuation behavior. To address this critical research gap, particularly related to joint choice-making in wildfires, we surveyed individuals impacted by the 2017 December Southern California Wildfires (n = 226) and the 2018 Carr Wildfire (n = 284). Using these data, we contribute to the literature in two key ways. First, we develop two latent class choice models (LCCMs) to evaluate the factors that influence the decision to evacuate or stay/defend. We find an evacuation keen class and an evacuation reluctant class that are influenced differently by mandatory evacuation orders. This nuance is further supported by different membership of people to the classes based on demographics and risk perceptions. Second, we develop two portfolio choice models (PCMs), which jointly model choice dimensions to assess multi-dimensional evacuation choice. We find several similarities between wildfires including a joint preference for within-county and nighttime evacuations and a joint dislike for within-county and highway evacuations. Altogether, this paper provides evidence of heterogeneity in response to mandatory evacuation orders for wildfires, distinct membership of populations to different classes of people for evacuating or staying/defending, and clear correlation among key wildfire evacuation choices that necessitates joint modeling to holistically understanding wildfire evacuation behavior.

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