Question Of Evacuation During Hurricane

To evacuate, or not to evacuate: that is the question. Citizens are faced with this tough decision when a hurricane is deemed severe enough to require evacuation zones. There are many factors affecting the decision to evacuate the area or to stay in their homes, and many of these factors can have both positive and negative affects on the decision based on the specific situation of the individual or household. But citizens aren’t the only ones faced with difficulties when evacuations are ordered, those who are placing the orders and relaying information will run into many difficulties of their own in trying to orchestrate the evacuation. The factors that most influence the decision to shelter in place include presence of children in the household, previous evacuation experience, and location, conversely the factors affecting the decision to evacuate include family size, presence of an elderly or disabled person in the household, presence of pets, pervious evacuation or hurricane experience, and being a homeowner, while factors making evacuation of an area difficult include the occurrence of shadow evacuation, relaying information to the public, and getting the right people to evacuate.

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Having children in the household, having previous evacuation experience, and close proximity to the coast all positively affect the decision to evacuate. The presence of children in a household is likely to create the desire to protect them from danger, thus increasing that household’s likelihood to evacuate (Hasan et al, Behavioral Model 341). Hasan, and others, also expresses that the amount of children within a household will positively affect the decision to evacuate (Transferability 554). So the presence of a single child will create a greater desire to evacuate a household while the presence of many children will make that desire even greater still. In Mary-Elise Manuell and Jeffery Cukor’s article “Mother Nature versus Human Nature: Public Complicate With Evacuation and Quarantine” they state that, “individuals who have evacuated before know what to do, how to act, feel as though they can accomplish the action, and perceive enough risk to intend to evacuate to begin with” (431). People who have previously evacuated are equipped with the knowledge and skill necessary to successfully evacuate an area whereas those who have never evacuated before do not have these skills. Stein, and others, reports that individuals living close to the coast are subject to the highest risk of strong winds and storm surge (Risk Perception, 321). Hasan illustrates this point in Table 1 of his Behavioral Model article. While only forty percent of people in evacuation zones during Hurricane Ivan actually evacuated, almost forty-one percent of those evacuees were from Florida, with Louisiana at twenty-eight percent, Mississippi at almost nineteen percent and Alabama at just above twelve percent (Hasan et al, Behavioral Model, 343). While each of these states sits on the gulf coast, Florida has significantly more coastline than the other three states, which affirms the statement that people who live on the coast are more likely to evacuate before a hurricane because these people realize that they are at a higher risk. The majority of the factors just discussed have the potential to also have negative affects on the decision to evacuate.

Those who have large families, have an elderly or disabled person to care for, have pervious evacuation experience, or are homeowners are likely to decide not to evacuate. Hasan, and others, declare that families with a large number of persons prefer not to evacuate (Transferability, 548). Large families likely prefer not to evacuate because the more people in a family the harder it will be to successfully evacuate. Hasan also states that the presence of an elderly or disabled person is likely to impede on efforts to evacuate (Behavioral Model, 341). Households containing elderly or disabled persons are less likely to evacuate because these types of people are more difficult to move and doing so could interrupt or unsettle their way of life, which at already fragile at best. Those who have experienced several recent evacuations, bad evacuations, or unnecessary evacuations are likely to suffer from evacuation fatigue (Manuell and Cukor, 431). Evacuation fatigue is likely to deter a person from evacuation because they are simply tired of doing so or don’t believe that there is any real threat. Hasan, and others, state that homeowners are less likely to evacuate than others who do not own their homes (Transferability, 548). This is likely due to the idea that people are worried about leaving their homes unattended and the damage that the house might experience. The above factors and the factors that positively affect the decision to evacuate work together to cause difficulties during evacuation of a large area.

During a large-scale evacuation many factors come into play making the evacuation difficult, these factors include the existence of shadow evacuation, and the attempt to get the right people to evacuate. Stein, and others, states that, “And increasing and ever-present problem associated with mass evacuations in anticipation of severe storms is the potential for a significant portion of evacuees to be stranded on congested roadways when the hurricane strikes” (Who Evacuates, 817). This is due mostly to shadow evacuation of people who were not in evacuation zones and were advised to shelter in place but decided that the risk of staying was too great. Hasan, and others, reports that many people attempting to evacuate during Hurricane Rita were stuck in gridlock on the freeways, and at least a portion was due to shadow evacuation. Having people stuck on roads during a hurricane can be an extremely dangerous situation since these people have nowhere safe to go. Stein, and others, realizes that most people do not comply with evacuation orders, either they do not evacuate when they should, or they evacuate unnecessarily (Risk Perceptions, 321). It becomes difficult to get the people in the greatest danger to evacuate when those in moderate danger insist on evacuation against orders to shelter in place. This again leads to shadow evacuation. Hasan says it best in his Behavioral Model article when he states, “those expected to evacuate often do not, and those who should not evacuate often do” (431).

Hurricane evacuation is a multi faceted aspect that deals with decision-making and difficulties for everyone involved. Some factors will cause a person to evacuate or shelter in place depending on the situation. Key factors that influence the decision to evacuate include children within the household, previous evacuation experience and proximity to the coast. Factors that influence the decision to shelter in place include family size, elderly or disabled persons within the household, previous evacuation experience, and homeownership. Some difficulties that arise during a large-scale hurricane evacuation include shadow evacuation and public compliance. Once a hurricane warning or evacuation order is placed people need to make the decision on whether or not to evacuate and each of the factors discussed will influence their decision.

10 September 2019

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