Insights into Behavior during Chimney Tops 2 Fire Could Improve Evacuation Planning
Published:10 Sep.2020    Source:NIST

As global temperatures continue to rise, cities and towns not historically prone to large wildfires may begin to face greater threats. An unsuspecting Tennessee community found itself in this position during the 2016 Chimney Tops 2 Fire, which led to 14 deaths and nearly 200 injuries — many related to last-minute evacuations.

To understand what motivates people to evacuate, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) surveyed affected residents. Their analysis of the responses identified key factors at play, including risk perception, gender, warnings from trusted sources, and evacuation plans. They also uncovered an unexpected phenomenon, wherein smoke appeared to lower peoples’ sense of danger. These results, outlined in the International Journal of Wildland Fire, could help communities, especially those without robust wildfire response plans in place, devise and improve strategies for getting people to head for safer ground.