Column: Risk Management

Opinion: Resist an Evacuation Order? Cover the Costs

By: | October 12, 2017

Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

We just recently witnessed historically large hurricanes and tropical storms. We also witnessed risk management at its best.

We saw in action brilliantly coordinated contingency plans and rescue operations. We saw mandatory evacuations, in several states in advance of the hurricanes, executed with consideration, dignity and respect. We saw the majority of residents prudently obeying evacuation orders to seek safe shelter — despite a few individuals who chose to resist.

Mandatory evacuations are used by emergency management officials to not only save the lives of inhabitants but also the lives of first responders.

But if one disobeys an order that is said to be mandatory, what kind of teeth does the word “mandatory” hold? What are the implications if you disobey such an order? What does it mean legally? Are there consequences attached to such defiance?

Each state has the statutory authority to implement emergency protocols during a disaster, including suspending some fundamental rights to enforce a mandatory evacuation.

It is my understanding that officials are not likely to ever arrest masses of people who disregard a mandatory evacuation order. But that said, these vigilantes ought to be prepared to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours after the hurricane: surviving with no electricity, water, internet, phone, and — most importantly — no emergency response service of any kind.


Even faced with this dire possibility, we still see brave souls risk their lives to extract stranded and defiant individuals. It is at this point I ask: When does the duty of emergency responders to assure public safety outweigh a person’s liberty to refuse evacuation? Should officials push harder to ensure a full evacuation?

Each state has the statutory authority to implement emergency protocols during a disaster, including suspending some fundamental rights to enforce a mandatory evacuation.

The police have long been known to have the obligation to secure the public welfare including during an emergency. That’s no different than the widely accepted authority of a fire chief who can order the evacuation of a building.

Legally, resisting an evacuation order in certain states is a criminal offense. The police have the power to seize you and forcefully evacuate you. But this is reluctantly done. In the past, incredibly, officials have been sued for wrongful imprisonment, false arrest and civil rights infringement.

One wonders, are these people in denial? Do they have insider information on the storm? Or do they just think they’re luckier than the rest?

In any case, what should be done with them? It appears not much more can be done or should be done. In these instances, the safety of the responders has to override the life of any resisting individual.

In some states, they hit you in the pocketbook, making you liable for all emergency rescue costs if needed later. If you choose to stay, I think it’s only fair you pay.

I guess this adage holds true: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” — W. Edwards Deming. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]