Why is it so hard to get people to evacuate when officials order them to? New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made it clear that those who stay behind in the lower Manhattan boroughs thought to be in danger of severe flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy will be putting both their lives and the lives of emergency responders at risk. Some see the refusal to evacuate as typical New York pluck, but it’s not. It is dangerous and dumb.
Local media are reporting stories of families on the upper floors of apartments who plan to hunker down and watch movies with their children while they ride out the storm, something they believe they can do without the benefit of electrical power. Some people are even expressing excitement about the forthcoming “adventure,” as if Sandy was being put on for their amusement.
Many others, however, especially those who live at ground level or below, or in low-lying areas along the eastern seaboard, have heeded evacuation warnings. This is a painful, emotional decision that few would want to experience. But it is the right decision. They are wisely not taking unnecessary chances, and they don’t see powerful surges of roiling seawater as something they want to experience first hand, regardless of how great a Facebook status update it might provide.
It is frankly off-putting for someone to declare that he personally prefers to stay put at the same time that entire neighbourhoods and towns are being uprooted, transit systems are being closed down, schools are shut and thousands of flights have been cancelled. Like everyone else, these stragglers are hoping the storm won’t produce the surge it is thought to be capable of. Unlike those who have heeded evacuation orders, they are now obliged to also hope that, if the worst happens, the officials whose warnings they ignored will send someone to rescue them. This kind of behaviour is inevitable, and none of the stragglers, no matter how self-inflicted their troubles turn out to be, will deserve to be abandoned. But let’s not call them plucky. Foolish and irresponsible is more like it.