I have quite a lot of family in New York, including a number of relatives in Sea Gate, Brooklyn, The city has issued a mandatory evacuation warning. My aunt is refusing to leave her house. She lives 1 block from the water. My dad asked me if the City could force her to leave her home. Mayor Bloomberg certainly can force you to drink small beverages, but could he, I wondered, forcibly remove a person from her home?
Even assuming that the police go door-to-door to check if people are home (that is probably not going to happen), could an officer forcibly move a person from her home? In the absence of an emergency, this would be a clear 4th Amendment violation. But what if a 1983 suit was filed after the emergency? Certainly a suit for a failure to provide emergency services during a hurricane would fail, but what about a suit going after the state for forcibly removing a person for her home?
I think the more likely outcome is that a police officer would warn the person, in no uncertain terms, that she is on her own. If she calls for help, there will be none. She is effectively reverting back to the State of Nature (think of The Case of the Speluncean Explorers). Or, think of hikers who knowingly go hiking into mountains ignoring weather warnings.
The National Weather Service has some intense warning that ranges from logic, to guilt, to emotion.
SOME IMPORTANT NOTES...1. IF YOU ARE BEING ASKED TO EVACUATE A COASTAL LOCATION BY STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS, PLEASE DO SO.2. IF YOU ARE RELUCTANT TO EVACUATE, AND YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO RODE OUT THE `62 STORM ON THE BARRIER ISLANDS, ASK THEM IF THEY COULD DO IT AGAIN.3. IF YOU ARE RELUCTANT, THINK ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONES, THINK ABOUT THE EMERGENCY RESPONDERS WHO WILL BE UNABLE TO REACH YOU WHEN YOU MAKE THE PANICKED PHONE CALL TO BE RESCUED, THINK ABOUT THE RESCUE/RECOVERY TEAMS WHO WILL RESCUE YOU IF YOU ARE INJURED OR RECOVER YOUR REMAINS IF YOU DO NOT SURVIVE.4. SANDY IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS STORM. THERE WILL BE MAJOR PROPERTY DAMAGE, INJURIES ARE PROBABLY UNAVOIDABLE, BUT THE GOAL IS ZERO FATALITIES.5. IF YOU THINK THE STORM IS OVER-HYPED AND EXAGGERATED, PLEASE ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION. WE WISH EVERYONE IN HARMS WAY ALL THE BEST. STAY SAFE!
Think about that. Even if you don’t want to move for yourself, think of what will happen if you call 911 and they can’t help you. Think fo the risk to the recovery teams who will have to find you and rescue you. Or, think of how difficult it will be for them to recover your remains. That is morbid thought.
The long-and-short of it: if you don’t evacuate, you’re on your own.
Update: Governor Chris Christie, never one to mince words, had this to say of people who refused to evacuate:
“They are now in harm’s way and I don’t’ know if we can get them out now,” the governor said. “These decisions were both stupid and selfish and I don’t know if we can get them out in the next 12 hours.”
Update 2: The President’s comments seem to care more for the first-responders than the people in harm’s way. This is an interesting appeal to emotion, though due to collective action problems and free-riding, I doubt any recalcitrant hanger-ons will listen.
“Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying,” the president said in a nationwide address at 12:45 p.m Monday. “If you are not evacuating when you’ve been asked to evacuate, you are putting first responders in danger.”