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?
A story on Philly.com 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 Philly.com 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?
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People chose to stay. They were duly informed, warned and encouraged to flee. They stayed at their own risk.
We should not reward stupidity.
We have these people called scientists...they have machines and equipment that track weather patterns...Meteorologists....Geologists....whatever else you want to call them. They are the experts that tell us "Hey folks we have a big one headed for us..." these experts say "hey if you are in a low lying area or a flood zone, you should leave as not to put your life at risk" ...
If you listen great....if not well then you did it to yourself..Unless you are an expert you dont make self predictions! you listen to the experts. That being said, no one knows for sure what will happen in the future so if its not that bad, your luck and got over. If it is you are a **** for staying around. Either way you were warned.
Does everyone deserve help? yes...my definition of help is the WARNING you get by these experts. If you ignore the warning then you have turned down the help. Our firefighters, policemen, and SAR teams are fathers, uncles, brothers, aunts, sisters, mothers to someone...why should their family suffer because of your ignorance!
After a certain time rescuers should be stood down and they don't go until after the storm. We should not risk additional lives to save people from their misguided desisions. If you stay, you face the consequences of your decision. If you die it is natural selection at work.
One of the hardest principals to get people to accept is that bad things can happen to them. No matter how smart they think they are. It is always the other fella that gets the "terrible storms of life" and not you personally. Yet guaranteed, sooner or later, your number is up and you best be prepared. No one gets out of life without unexpected circumstances thrust upon them that are life changing.
While charging rescued people may seem fair to some, there could be a number of reasons a person could not get out of an area, including failed rides showing up or car problems, medical, disabilities, miscommunications, waiting for family members to arrive, confusion in changes along evacuation areas, etc. In trial runs, live drills and exercises I have participated in through some of the emergency professions I've worked for as well as actual incidents, problems in communications and various unexpected or uncontrollable events were most likely to keep people from leaving an area when they needed to.
In addition, Search & Rescue is all volunteer off duty firemen, police officers, medics and military with FEMA keeping on hand equipment and supplies, in metal storage containers paid for worth millions of dollars. So the cost is negligible. It is more about the human risk involved. Funds have already been allocated for that year. It is afterwards for cleanup which makes the news in the millions or billions. Not the rescue costs. Maintenance for equipment needs is also budgeted for in advance, with estimates set aside.
Last, those who go out in the face of danger to help save and rescue people in need, realize that all too often people make foolish choices and put themselves at risk. Sometimes, it costs their life. It isn't just during major storms, but everyday across this nation. Will billing people for rescuing them, lead them to think twice before making a stupid choice? Probably not. Fools have been with us from the dawn of time.
The heart of the volunteer who goes out to save that person, despite himself, is noble indeed. When most others would say, just let him die, he deserves what he gets. The capacity to forgive and give that fella a second chance, maybe to be more wiser, is truly a wonderful gift to have. Perhaps because, after all, haven't we all acted foolish at some point in our lives and just gotten lucky we didn't need rescuing? Or maybe we did, and just forgotten. Second chances sometimes are priceless especially when they are least deserved.
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