Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Fail to flee, pay to be rescued?

Should those who ignore evacuation orders have to pay when first responders have to save them from harm?

By Karen Datko Nov 6, 2012 4:03PM

Image: Traffic © Pixtal, SuperStockA story on about a couple who didn't evacuate Beach Haven, N.J., as Hurricane Sandy bore down drew plenty of ridicule from readers. "They should have to sign a 'I won't be rescued' agreement, sad putting first responders at risk," one wrote.


The majority of people ordered to evacuate as Sandy approached used common sense and fled. Others didn't and had to be rescued. Some paid with their lives.


So you have to wonder: Should those who ignore evacuation orders have to pay when first responders are forced to save them from harm?


Here are some other examples of people who stayed:


One Brigantine couple who decided not to leave "called 911 around 1 p.m. Monday when their storm door blew off and winds and rain swept through the house. But police were unable to reach them, and the couple 'went upstairs and rode it out,'" another story said.


The Long Island Press documented the rescue of 34 people who had refused to leave.

"Suffolk County police lost an SUV in (Fire Island) flooding while rescuing 14 people west of Ocean Beach on Monday. Seventeen people were rescued Tuesday from Cherry Grove, along with 10 pets. Bellone said a family of three was rescued from an unspecified community Wednesday."

In Atlantic City, N.J., rescuers had to use lifeboats to remove stragglers from their homes before the storm made landfall.


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called a decision to ignore evacuation orders "stupid." New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it "very selfish." We agree. But not everyone sees it that way. Some think it's an expression of freedom. Dagnabit, Americans have the right to be stupid.


"As storm cleanup continues, so also does the moral debate," said Religion News Service. "The idea of evacuation as a moral duty has gained traction among some local officials, theologians and hurricane survivors. But others find the notion misguided, uncompassionate and a threat to individual liberties."

Normally the debate about paying to be rescued arises when a hiker or skier gets into a difficult spot in dangerous terrain -- particularly when the person ignored multiple warnings to stay away.


While a handful of states have laws that permit a charge for search and rescue operations, many in the field think it would discourage people from calling for help.


"We know that when people believe that they are going to receive a large bill for a SAR mission, they delay a call for help or they refuse to call for help," Howard Paul, former president of the Colorado Search and Rescue Board, told Time several years ago.


On the other hand, knowing that they could face a bill or a fine might make more people inclined to comply with an order to leave. But there will always be obstinate folks who put themselves above the safety of others.


In a forum on a similar question on WebMD, a participant who described himself as a former NYC firefighter of 25 years wrote:

"Should the city/county have to provide rescue services if you refuse to evacuate? Yes, absolutely, but if you were ordered to evacuate and refused, you should also receive a citation, a fine, and bear the cost of the rescue. A disaster like this is hard on everyone, but put yourself in the shoes of the people tasked with providing emergency services to you, even while their own family's property and safety is probably at the same risk."

I'm all for imposing a fine. What do you think?


More on MSN Money:



Nov 6, 2012 6:15PM
I draw the line for individual liberty when their decision costs my tax dollars to cover lost or damaged emergency service equipment, or God forbid the injury or death of a first responder due to an individuals misguided belief that they can face down natural disaster.
Nov 6, 2012 7:08PM
"But others find the notion misguided, uncompassionate and a threat to individual liberties"
 - absolutely - you're free to die at any time, just don't expect the rest of us to pay to keep you alive AFTER you make that decision.  Seems everyone remembers the "liberty" part, no one remembers the "responsibility" part that goes with liberty.
Nov 6, 2012 10:28PM
Minister is in a flood. Water rises to his kitchen window and a boat shows up, "Go away," he says, "God will save me!".  Water rises to second story window and another boat shows up, "No thanks, God will save me." Water crests over his house and he sits on the roof, a National Guard helicopter comes, "I don't need you, God will save me!"  Later at the gates of heaven he asks God, "Why did you forsake me?"  God says, "Forsake you, hell, I sent two boats and a helicopter!  What more do you expect? I've got a whole world to look out for."    If you choose not to save yourself, prepare to suffer the consequences.
Nov 6, 2012 6:11PM
Arizona has a stupid motorist law for those who insist driving past barricades into flooded washes and then have to be rescued.  In those cases, if public emergency services are called to rescue the motorist , the cost of those services can be billed to the motorist, up to a maximum of $2,000.   Every year there are always some people who will drive past the barricades and have to be rescued.  When they have been given ample warning of the danger, let them pay for their rescue.  While there may be some who don't pay, it may deter others from staying in a dangerous situation.
Nov 6, 2012 6:51PM
Risking the lives of the first responders when people have been told to evacuate is not a wise idea. They chose to stay so let them ride it out. Charging them will do no good just dont show up. You cant fix stupid.
Nov 6, 2012 4:38PM

In a major forest fire, firefighters green flag (we can defend) or red flag (we can't defend) areas based on safety and escape routes for the firefighters. If you are under a mandatory evacuation order, you should be red flagged - too unsafe for rescuers to go in.  If you decide to stay, you are on your own.

I don't think imposing a fine will do anything to discourage the people who decide to ride it out - either they have the money and don't care about rescuers safety, or they don't have the money and will never pay anything.

Nov 6, 2012 7:11PM
In the midwest when we have bad blizzards, they warn people to stay off the highways.  Sometimes at a certain point they announce the highway patrol and wreckers are not going to respond to calls for assistance.  Most people have enough brains at that point to stay home.  If some one tells you get out, get out.  If they tell you to stay where you are, stay where you are.  Expecting people to put their lives on the line to rescue you because you are stupid and don't obey orders is ridiculous
If someone has to pay for their equipment and lives to be on the line for someone too stubborn to leave an area for their own safety , then I'm all for it. Why should the rest of us have to pay for someone who doesn't heed the warnings.
Nov 6, 2012 6:58PM
I feel when a SUPERSTORM is headed your way and you have been told for days its coming and to get out and seek shelter and you decide not to go then yes you should pay for your rescue. men and Women put their own lives in harms way to come get you and have to have equipment that will get them in and out safely. That has a cost they should bare.

Nov 6, 2012 7:36PM
You have a right to ignore warnings to evacuate, but if you need to be saved because of your independence, then be dependent and don't ask for help or to be saved by others as a result of your incompetence.
Nov 6, 2012 6:15PM
I am guessing better than half of America is convinced that if they obey an evacuation order low life types and going to head, do not pass go, to their area to loot and steal.  Which brings me to the side issue of maybe it is time to shoot looters on sight.

So does it surprise any of you that people regularly thumb their noses at evacuation orders?  But if you decide to sit on the front porch with the Glock in plain view as the waters rise, then when the  stuff hits the fan, you ought to get a heft bill from any entity supported by taxpayer dollars, plus a summons for violating the law.   And to make the cheese even more binding, I would allow family members of responders who may be injured trying to drag your sorry **** off your front porch to sue you.  The solution, of course, is your various property and casualty poliicies would be void if you fail to heen an evac order.  Boy would the insurance industry ever line up behind that concept.
Nov 6, 2012 7:10PM

I dont think you should waste personnel or equipment to save selfish stupid people. Let them die.

Nov 6, 2012 10:15PM
do not risk lives to save the stupid.  allow darwinism to play out.
Nov 6, 2012 9:33PM
After working in Emergency Services for over 20 years, I've come to expect people to ignore evacuation orders. These include the elderly; the cognitively challenged; the macho; in addition to people worried about their physical property. I've been in blizzard, tropical storm, hurricane, and tornado impacted areas. All had one thing incommon; people who did not fully realize the threat they faced. The costs faced by the rescuers can be even heavier than the risk may first appear. In addition to the physical effects there are the mental issues, this becomes even greater if rescues become recoveries. I don't know that imposing fiscal penalties is the answer, but I do know that the manpower costs alone can become imposing for cash strapped organizations and agencies. Where the Taxpayers are footing the bill, the local government may have the moral highground of recouping costs. Yet I can still understand the reluctance of people to evacuate. It is the same reluctance displayed by the elderly to call for an ambulance for illnesses and injuries: Will Insurance cover the costs? Will I be billed for costs not covered by insurance? If people are uneduacted about the true costs they will become a fiscal burden in addition to a humanitarian issue. I believe that if people have the funds and means of evacuation that they should comply with the order  or be left to their own devices. Should rescue be required for those with the ability to evacuate then they should pay costs plus penalties. As for people who are reliant on governmental resources to evacuate, Should they be provided the option to stay when the order is given? For over two decades, my responsibility was for those on the crews I worked with in addition to the comunities I served. Conversely shouldn't the responsibility of the Community be to protecting the protectors as well or paying extra for services which may of been avoided?
Nov 6, 2012 7:28PM

I agree, fine them.  Big time!  And as for reasons for not imposing a fine that people may not call.  Well let them die.  Like the article said if they chose not to leave then we can chose not to put people lives in danger rescuing them!  Make the choice; live (or die) with the result.

Fining those idiots can help pay for the clean-up. 

Nov 6, 2012 8:49PM
If they are that stupid to stay let them stay.  I saw were people complaing about losing their million dollar plus homes due to all the flooding but if you want a sea side view I am sorry but that was you'r dumb idea  I am sure you have a big insurance policy.
Nov 6, 2012 7:36PM
Yes, if someone does not leave when they have been told to they need to be charged for help if they have to call for help.  The decision to tell folks that they need to get out of harms way is not made just for the fun of it.  It is made for a reason. It is a gift that science has come so far as to be able to warn you of an approaching storm.  I was born and raised in earthquake country and I can promise you that I and my friends and family here would love the gift of being fore warned.  We would be happy with just 1 hour notice let alone being warned well in advance.
Nov 6, 2012 10:49PM
  I'd understand if people had nowhere to go but there were many shelters open to take people. There's no excuse.
Nov 6, 2012 7:36PM
Yes, people who are told to leave and stay behind should have to pay for help it they need it. The decision to tell people to get out of harms way it not made just for fun.  It is made for a reason.  The fact that science has come so far as to be able to warn us it a great gift.  A gift that saves lives.  I was born and raised in earthquake country and I can promise you that those of us living here would love and 1 hour warning let alone days. 
Nov 6, 2012 10:03PM

What do people think they are gaining by not evacuating? Are they the storm rebels that want to show the world they won't comply with any type of government orders? They should be fined at minimum, the cost of the fuel it takes to pilot a helicopter. Then, maybe a "I'm a ****" fine of some sort. It's not like their house will be less damaged by a storm if they stayed.


I wonder at what point do they think to themselves "wow, this was probably not the best idea I have ever had?"

I'm going with when the windows shatter and raging water rushes in.

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.