Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Public Service


Public Administration and Policy

Committee Director

Wie Yusuf

Committee Member

Joshua G. Behr

Committee Member

Gail Nicula


The purpose of this research is to examine current emergency management (EM) evacuation policies and practices with respect to vulnerable populations’ hurricane evacuation behaviors. The response of vulnerable households and local and state governments’ implementation of emergency evacuation policies and practices provide possible linkages to continual problems faced by local governments in addressing its most vulnerable residents. Using social construction as a theoretical foundation provides context for the consideration of vulnerable populations in emergency management policy and hurricane evacuation.

This research is a qualitative case study of emergency management policies, practices, and perceived household evacuation behaviors in several cities of Hampton Roads, Virginia. The research area consists of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Hampton. This study uses the phenomenological method of inquiry to obtain information about experiences and practices of EM practitioners and stakeholders.

During this research process, areas are identified where social construction theory provides efficacy in explaining the findings. During the interviews with emergency management practitioners and stakeholders, the conclusion was although other socially vulnerable populations such as the elderly, homeless, disabled, and medically fragile receive EM policy considerations, income, specifically, low-to-moderate income households, is not considered as a resource base or identified as its own group for social vulnerability in EM policies and practices. This research finds this to be the case even though throughout the research literature, income is a primary factor for social vulnerability in environmental hazards and natural disasters (Blaikie, Cannon, Davis, & Wisner, 1994; Bergstrand, Mayer, Brumback, & Zhang, 2018; Buckle, 1998; Cutter, 1996, Cutter & Emrich, 2006; Gooden, Jones, Martin, & Boyd, 2009; Myers, Slack, & Singelmann, 2008; Rufat, Tate, Burton, & Maroof, 2015).

This research informs policy decision making and implementation at local government’s multiple levels. Additionally, this study informs research disciplines rooted in policy theory about how social construction theory affects policy creation and implementation. Lastly, this case study’s research findings will better inform the planning and implementation of current and future EM and other related policies and practices to allow more inclusive considerations for Hampton Roads’ diverse populations.