The question some, if not many people have is “Can I be charged and/or arrested for failing to heed a mandatory evacuation order. The answer is yes, in some states, but not likely. It is akin to a curfew issued in some cities due to civil unrest or a natural disaster. A violation can lead to fines and or incarceration in some cases.
In North Carolina, for example, the governor can “Direct and compel the evacuation of all, or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area within the state during a state of emergency”. “Anyone who violates an evacuation order can be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor, which can be punishable by up to 30 days of confinement, probation, or community service” (Blitzer, 2016).
Texas, for example, specifically provides that a county judge or mayor of a municipality who orders a mandatory evacuation “may compel persons who remain in the evacuated area to leave and authorize the use of reasonable force to remove persons from the area” (Tex. Government Code § 418.185).
Mandatory evacuations are employed to protect the public, and to protect the first responders as well. The order is used when the disaster has the potential to cause severe loss of life, and property damage. The authorities, of course, would prefer people voluntarily leave, and in some cases, a person may be asked to fill out a form if they refuse to evacuate. The form may ask for a person’s next of kin, social security number, and other identifying information so your remains can be identified. This is essentially a scare tactic to encourage people to leave. In most cases, you would be told that emergency services would not be available to include police, fire, hospitals, and paramedics/ambulance services.
By staying, you endanger your life and possibly the lives of others. Rescue personnel even though they may be ordered from an area may still attempt a rescue, that’s simply what they do and in some cases, the rescuers die because of their efforts. Friends and other family members may also try to help or even complete strangers, and thus, their lives are put at risk, it’s not just you in danger.
The urge to stay and protect your property and possessions is overwhelming, but possessions can be gained back, a life cannot. This is another reason to make sure you have prepared, prepared by having adequate insurance coverage, an evacuation plan, and the means to evacuate. If you do not fear a financial disaster, you may be more apt to leave knowing you have the financial means to rebuild and to regain what material possessions you had lost.
Every person has a personal choice to make and if it is just you staying then nobody really has anything to say. However, if there are other family members staying then again it’s just not you in danger, and then there are those that may try to rescue you or bring you supplies.
It is a very difficult decision for most people. You may not have all of the information that the authorities have, so in some instances, you have to trust in their knowledge.
During Hurricane Matthew, some 2 million people evacuated and some found that their homes and property suffered no damages, and thus, some stated they would think twice before leaving again. The fear of looting is a major concern, so many do stay for that reason. However, no one knows before it is too late just how severe a storm may be. Evacuating from one storm only to find out you would have been okay staying, is not a reason to stay the next time.
Be prepared and know the facts and do not put your life or the lives of others in danger for material possessions.
Blitzer, R. (2016). Retrieved 2016, from http://lawnewz.com/high-profile/heres-what-happens-if-you-dont-follow-an-evacuation-order-during-hurricane/
weather.com. (2016). Retrieved 2016, from https://weather.com/safety/news/what-mandatory-evacuation-means
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