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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?


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Nov 8, 2012 2:08PM

Paying to be rescued is by far the most selfish, immoral, self-centered, illogical, moronic, and irresponsible crock of crap I have EVER heard.  I guess human life has a price on it, an extremely sad and pathetic view in my mind.

Nov 8, 2012 2:03PM
My first thought, what about the people that risk their lives to rescue them?  When there are multiple warnings out there, by gosh get your **** out of the way!!!
Nov 8, 2012 2:02PM
First of all evacuation means you will need to have somewher to stay are they giving persons somewhere to stay? if so then yes but sometimes persons do not want to leave their belongings behind so no they should not pay. Its pathetic.
Nov 8, 2012 1:59PM
I think others lives come first, and I don't think anyone should have to pay for it. Sure, that may be looking at it unrealistically, but come on, when it comes to being there for someone else, money shouldn't be a factor in this. It's depressing just to think about how many people don't care enough because money to them is what comes first; it's me first, you later. The men and women that go out there and do this are risking their lives, sure, but the ones that are being rescued shouldn't have to pay the price. 

Just because there are people that make those dumb choices doesn't mean they deserve to sit through the middle of a catastrophe. See, actually, this is a dilemma, because I'm not sure what the best idea is when it comes to money, and I think that's a problem. I just know money clouds peoples judgements when we should be putting lives first, and if it means we have to send out those that are brave enough to do such a "job" then so be it, as long as everyone makes it out.

I realize if or when many people read this they'll think I'm unrealistic and ignorant, and I know how it all works, but this is just how I feel anyways.
Nov 8, 2012 1:59PM
Louisiana First Responder,  most of us are on your side.  We had a week  watching this storm come up our coast, we knew people had already been killed, we knew how much damage was done, we knew what could happen to us.  We were told in no uncertain terms that this storm was deadly, told repeatedly in fact.

The people that you listed are very much in danger, however, there was plenty of time.  If no family is nearby then call social services (or police), they will tell you how to help a family member get out.  If there is no family and the person is so disabled that they do not know what to do, they are not likely to be living alone or they at the very least have someone to take them to doctor, food shopping.  They are not totally alone, someone knows about them and they have the ability to contact someone. People who cannot afford transportation can ask for a ride, or start walking.  They had a week to get out.

One last point, we do not want you to loose your life, we are on your side and I can tell you that we are very grateful for all you do so selflessly.  To call us heartless bastards diminishes you .

Nov 8, 2012 1:53PM

We have radio commercials in Florida where a person calls 911 during a hurricane and is told that there are no first responders in evacuation areas until the storm passes. The message is to heed the warnings or risk the consequences.


First responders (the loved ones of other people) should not have to risk their own lives for people who choose to be reckless. If you want to exercise individual freedoms, do it at your own risk. No one else should have to risk their lives to save you.

Nov 8, 2012 1:43PM
Individual liberty, freedom, and rights should never have a line drawn on it when it comes to this kind of thing. You have the right to me smart but you also have the right to be dumb if you choose. I have mixed feelings about this issue and many of the feelings are personal for me. We can't put a price on life even if the life decided to be stupid and not heed warnings. If people don't want to leave their homes then they should not be made to. Should rescuers try to risk their lives and save them? YES. Even if it costs them their lives. Why? It's the right thing to do. It is what they got into the job to do. The ones that sit there and blame the people who stayed for putting a responders life at risk really burn my butt because risk is a part of the job and you wanted to sit in that chair. If a person who is a garbage man does not like dealing with garbage then he or she should not be a garbage man/woman and pick a different job. If you don't like rescuing people no matter what the cause then don't be a cop, firefighter, EMT etc. I have an associates in Criminal Justice working on a Bachelors and I would still do my job even if it means risking my life to do so. Even if it means that I knew beforehand that the person put themselves in the situation to begin with; because IT IS MY JOB. That's why I CHOSE THAT JOB and not some other job. I would never blame that person for haveing to DO MY JOB even though it may be their fault in the first place. Part of the job sometimes is that we have to save people from their own short-sightedness, their own arrogance, their own stupidity, or from divices of their own making. If you didn't want to do that then get out of the job so people like me can get in and do a better one because no matter what the cost or what the situation that led to it; I would go in, do what is nessessary and get the job done. Anyone who wants to sit around and whine about the fact that they HAVE to do this for any reason is simply lazy. It's your job!! It's like the garbage man/woman whining because they have to deal with garbage. If you don't like it then don't do the job. To say that some are less deserving than others to be rescued because of their own stupidity is counterproductive to the goals of the job. I understand that some responders would not go out there when it is dangerous and that is their right. I would not dispute them or order them to. It should be a personal choice to go out there or not but for me; I would be out there no matter what. That's my personal choice and why I want this kind of job and I wish more people like me would seek these kinds of jobs.
Nov 8, 2012 1:17PM
You have the right to refuse to evacuate.  Responders have the right to ignore your pleas for help. If you choose to stay, do not think you can call for help.  You must wait until it is safe to do so. Choices have consequences.  Accept them.
Nov 8, 2012 1:10PM

Nothing like asking people who have never been through a disaster for their opinion.  Having been involved in hurricane diasters and recovery my whole life, most of the people who don't evacuate have one of the following issues:

1. They are elderly people who lost their driver's license due to age or vision and who have no children or children who are out of state and can't get to their parents in time. [Yeah like lots of people who live on the east coast and have parents in retirement communities in Florida.]

2. They are elderly people who lost their driver's license due to age or vision and are on a fixed income so they cannot afford to pay - and don't even have it in their bank accounts in cash - the prices that taxi drivers charge to drive someone out of the state during an evacuation and they can't get rental cars because they don't have licenses.

3. They are people who are bedridden and housebound due to illness and who are often transported just to ordinary doctors visits by medical vans or ambulances and there are no ambulances to move them because the demand outstrips the supply during a hurricane evacuation.

4. They are people suffering with mental illness.  What becomes really bad is not only do they fail to appreciate danger as a non-suffering person would, but in the weeks to months that follow with no electricity or reliable transportation or computer service to pharmicies, they run out of medicine and get worse.

5. They are homeless people who have nowhere to stay and no vehicle or way to get ou and no one even knows they are there.

6. They are children who are living with one of the above.

7. They are the elderly starting to have the onset of dementia but are undiagnosed so they don't really appreciate what is going on the way they would have in the past.

8. They are nursing home residents where the nursing home makes the decision not to move due to costs or due to the lack of available ambulances to move everyone out. 

Should I go on?

THESE are the people you want to charge?  Heartless bastards.

Nov 8, 2012 12:57PM

they already paid taxes for this and in New jersey they already pay too much.  this is what the taxes cover. so yes they are fools but no they should not be charged

Nov 8, 2012 12:57PM
Those that choose to stay are probably trying to protect their stuff.  Still, it's foolish, and they need to bear the cost -- even if that is their lives.  Insurance won't protect against every loss -- but flood waters are far more damaging than thieves.  If they keep children in danger zones that is child endangerment and they should be prosecuted. 
Nov 8, 2012 12:54PM
Great idea, so if i evacuate my home and looters rob me does that mean I can sue the police for making me leave my home then not protecting it? sounds like win win for me!
Nov 8, 2012 12:50PM
they have the rite not to evacuate; but they do not I repeat do not have the right to put others in harms way if people opt to stay in areas ordered to evacuate durring major storms there should be no attempts at rescue until the worst and most dangerous part of the storm has past. They should definately have to pay for their own stupidity. If experts order you to flee and you don't suffer and pay the conseguences, I refuse to pay for your stupidity.
Nov 8, 2012 12:49PM

Ok, this is for the bleeding heart liberals that live off my tax money and for the so called christains.


Can any of you answer with certainty that hurricanes and other natural disasters where there has been warning given with ample time to get out of the way, that those who would stay and die, ...........isn''t God's way of population control or a way of improving the gene pool?


Supposedly we cannot determine God's will and we should not try.


As I said in earlier posts, Lemmings commit suicide, some people text and drive, drive while drunk or just die due to stupidity like being grossly obese. Sometimes it causes the deaths of innocent folks.


Should we not mess with God's will? Maybe this is why occasionally a person dies trying to save the idiots?


Let people make the decision to defy nature or God's will and not attempt to save the idiots that make a bad choice. No excuses like my gas tank is empty, I am broke, I am too fat to get my rear out the door or I was just too darn stupid.

Nov 8, 2012 12:46PM

In my sister's town, the fire department came down her street 1 hour before people were supposed to evacuate and said there was a mandatory evacuation.  The neighboring town had been out since the day before going door to door.  My niece  took her baby and went to her boyfriend's house, and my sister, nephew and younger niece tried to make it to my house.  They ended up caught in a flood, and had to be rescued by my sister's ex, who took them back home.  My nephew's car ended up lost to the flood.  They would have been safer at home, but tried to heed the evacuation and almost lost their lives in the process.  At home they only lost power but they were safe.

Nov 8, 2012 12:41PM
Where were these questions during Katrina and where is the outrage at the White House like we had then?
Nov 8, 2012 12:37PM

I can see it on the news of four dies because parents didnt want a bill for being rescued. Any kids in trouble should be rescued without hesitation. Also, these people are tax payers. They dont need to pay ****. If you dont want to be put in harms way, dont become a first responder. Plain and simple.

Nov 8, 2012 12:28PM
I don't think anyone should have to pay to be rescued. But if you are too ignorant to heed numerous warnings and choose to stay you should not expect preferential treatment  and you should definitely not bitch and complain because help isn't coming quick enough to suit you. If you choose to stay behind you deserve to suffer the consequences whatever they may be.
Nov 8, 2012 12:25PM

When an evacuation order is issued and you refuse to leave, you should have to sign a legal document stating that fact.  The Police officers, or National Guard, or whoever then obtains an inside the cheek DNA swab and a photo of you.  The swab and photo (used for indentification purposes just in case you don't make it) and paperwork goes into a zip lock bag, and the officials wish you good luck.

If you have a vehicle, you've probably had enough time to fill the tank and leave in the other direction, when you get down to 1/4 tank, you stop and negogiate a motel for a week.  I realize quite a few people in larger cities don't have vehicles and depend on public transportation, but SOMEBODY is headed in the other direction- beg, pay them, whatever to get a ride.

Nov 8, 2012 12:24PM
Quit saving idiots it only hurts the gene pool.
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