Methods: Cross-sectional survey data were collected via an online questionnaire with 134 Black and Latinx adults in Middle Tennessee who were exposed to the March 3, 2020 tornadoes. Guided by a risk and protective framework, our analyses included: (1) descriptive statistics to identify barriers to receiving weather emergency alerts, and (2) structural equation modeling (SEM) to test relationships between disaster-stressors, protective factors, and mental health outcomes (i.e. depression and PTSD). All analyses were performed with R statistical software and the psych and lavaan packages.
Results: Our sample included 80.3% Black participants, 17% Latinx participants, and 2.7% identifying as multi-racial. Descriptive analysis found the most significant barrier in accessing emergency services or information cited by participants was being asleep (44.5%), followed by not hearing tornado sirens (27.7%), no access to a smart phone to receive weather emergency alerts (22.6%), no access to a NOAA weather radio to receive alerts (14.6%), and encountering language barriers (10.9%). The SEM models converged and had acceptable model fit. SEM results found that having more tornado-related stressors was significantly and positively associated with having more depression (β = .615, p<.001) and more PTSD (β = .566, p<.001). Results also found that having various protective factors (material, social, and psychological resources) was significantly associated with having lower depression scores (β = -.299, p<.001) but was not significantly related to having fewer PTSD symptoms (p value =.06)
Conclusions & Implications: Findings from this study identify various barriers encountered for accessing emergency alert information by Black and Latinx adults. National Weather Service offices and emergency management professionals should build partnerships with Black and Latinx leaders, organizations, and residents to develop policies and practices to address weather alert barriers prior to and during an event. In addition, findings from this study support the need for providing various community resources and culturally and linguistically competent mental health services following a disaster event.
Ellis, K., et al. (2020). In the dark: Public perceptions of and National Weather Service forecaster considerations for nocturnal tornadoes in Tennessee. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
Reid, M. (2013). Disasters and Social Inequalities. Sociology Compass, 7, 984–997.