Qualitative Analysis of the Lived Experience of Tornado Survivors and Factors Affecting Community Resilience: A Case Study of an EF3 Tornado in Jacksonville, Alabama


Emergency Management

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Residents in the Southeast region of the United States are frequently threatened by tornadoes. Previous research indicates that it is important to study the experience of tornado victims to better understand individual risk perception, preparedness, protective action, response, and recovery strategies that contribute to overall community resilience. In this study, we employ an oral-history approach and analyze the lived experience of survivors of an EF3 (on the enhanced Fujita scale) tornado in Jacksonville, Alabama. Using snowball sampling, we conducted in-depth interviews of 25 residents of Jacksonville, Alabama, who experienced the EF3 tornado on 19 March 2018. The recorded interviews were analyzed using qualitative software.Most of the participants described the support system and the range of resources accessible through the network of relations as the critical factors that facilitated recovery and contributed to resilience. The majority also emphasized the importance of being prepared and proactive when addressing future storms, but some of their actions revealed that they were also used to being reactive. The participants were either long-term residents (homeowners) or transient college students (renters), and the data gave insight into different recovery paths and challenges. Further, findings revealed ongoing trauma and recovery challenges due to the extensive, unexpected damage and the lack of temporary housing and contractor availability often associated with small, rural towns. This research aims to provide a scientific basis for improved efforts in preparedness and protective actions as well as in response and recovery strategies in tornado events and for identifying factors of community resilience in tornado-prone areas.