NWC REU 2013
May 22 - July 30



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Tornado Damage Mitigation: What National Weather Center Visitors Know and Why They Aren't Mitigating

Kody Gast, Jerry Brotzge, and Daphne LaDue


What is already known:

  • Recent engineering advances now make it possible to apply home construction techniques to prevent much of the damage caused by winds up to EF–2 scale (135 mph) in strength.
  • The vast majority of homes have few construction methods applied that mitigate against damage from tornado strength winds, despite the relatively low cost in doing so.
  • The factors either inhibiting or encouraging the adoption of new mitigation techniques by the public are largely unknown.

What this study adds:

  • This study confirms that in general, the public has little specific understanding of many of the terms used in describing mitigation or of the actual engineering steps needed in improving mitigation.
  • Significant barriers preventing greater adoption of mitigation include the high costs, hassle of getting it done, and lack of knowing what to do to get started.
  • Nevertheless, a significant portion of the public may be willing to spend $1,000 or more on mitigation activities, particularly if they have a relatively high household income or consider themselves at risk for tornado activity.


A survey was conducted of adults touring the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma during the summer of 2013 to understand what the visitors know in regards to mitigation and what factors impact mitigation behavior. Survey questions were summarized into four categories: background knowledge of tornadoes and tornado damage, knowledge of mitigation, estimation of risk, and factors impacting mitigation activities. Many visitors did not know that mitigation against tornado damage is possible and that homes can be designed or retrofitted to withstand a majority of the damage that tornadoes can cause. Among nine key terms of mitigation, only four terms were marked by more than 20% of respondents, signifying that many of the visitors did not know about mitigation. Reasons for why people are not mitigating, including not knowing what to do, not perceiving too great of a risk, and the costliness of mitigation.

Full Paper [PDF]