Sunday, July 24, 2016

Evacuation Orders 101

If you live in a place that is prone to wildfires or hurricanes you are probably familiar with the various types of evacuation orders you might experience.  The purpose of these orders--made by government officials and enforced by local police and sheriff's deputies--is to save lives.

And while I am all for personal freedom, the problem comes when people who refuse an evacuation order eventually call 911 for help when it is basically too late.  By this point, sending in first responders put the responder's life in danger all because the person who was too stubborn to leave at the appropriate time is now staring down death.  This was a particular problem during Hurricane Katrina and I even recall people refusing to leave their homes when Mt St Helens was erupting years ago.

If you are at all interested in preserving your life and/or that of your family, it pays to heed evacuation warnings when they are first issued instead of playing a game of chicken with nature.  These are the types of evacuation notices to pay attention to:

  • Voluntary or recommended evacuation notices:  this order is issued when the threat to lives is not yet imminent but conditions exist, or such circumstances may exist, in the near future.  Such a notice will recommend that people in particular areas relocate to a safer area in the near future. 
  • Mandatory evacuation:  this order is issued when danger is imminent and conditions exist that seriously imperil or endanger the lives of people in a defined area.  People will be strongly urged to relocate to a safer area, and in many cases, people who refuse to evacuate could be forcibly removed from their homes.  In areas that are under a mandatory evacuation order, curfews may be instituted, lifesaving assistance will not be provided, people can be arrested for being in the evacuation area, and evacuation routes may eventually be closed, not allowing people to enter or exit the area. 
  • Forced evacuation order:  this type of order is rare and may be issued as a last resort.  When danger or loss of life is imminent and conditions exist that critically imperil or endanger the lives of those in a defined area, authorities can impel everyone in the area to relocate to a safer location.  People who refuse this order can be arrested and are subject to criminal prosecution.
Generally you will hear about voluntary evacuation orders on the local news or via reverse 911 calls.  Obviously this would be a good time to leave.  Mandatory evacuation orders will also come via the local news and/or reverse 911 calls.  This type of order will usually be followed up by law enforcement knocking on your door telling you to get out ASAP.  

Forced evacuation orders are rare and usually law enforcement is so overwhelmed at that point that they aren't going to stand on your porch and argue with you when there are other people to be saved.  Some agencies will have you sign a waiver stating that you know you will probably die because you didn't evacuate and there is no legal recourse against the city/county/state and you should probably write your name in bold letters on your body in permanent marker in order to be more easily identified when they find your washed up corpse.

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