Why many people stay put when a hurricane arrives: NPR
Carlos Osorio for NPR
As Hurricane Ian heads toward Florida’s west coast, local and state officials have activated contingency plans — urging residents to evacuate high-impact areas.
But when it comes to evacuating from Ian’s path, residents such as Sharon Charles told NPR they had no choice but to stay put and ride out the storm.
“I’m a wildlife rehabilitator and tend to a colony of feral cats in my backyard,” Charles said.
Charles, who cares for nearly 20 pets, said many hurricane evacuation shelters don’t allow pets, with only a few allowing only one to two pets; leaving those who don’t want to abandon their pets no choice but to stay at home.
Whether it’s first responders, people working in animal shelters, people with disabilities or people with a language barrier, the reality is often much more complicated for those who cannot easily get up and evacuate safely. security.
“It’s not as easy for some people, especially when you’re outdoors,” said Cara Cuite, assistant extension specialist in Rutgers University’s Department of Human Ecology.
Cooked, who has studied evacuation decisions people made during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, says it’s not as easy as you might think when you’re not in the moment.
“It’s easy to think: of course people should just pack up and leave,” she said. But for “people with disabilities, those who have pets or simply [if] you don’t have a car or enough money to leave, it can make it very difficult.”
Evacuating your home can be expensive
Carlos Osorio for NPR
Depending on a family’s financial situation, evacuating away from a storm can be costly.
“Many low-to-middle-income households just don’t have the money or the credit,” Joshua Behr, a research professor at Old Dominion University, said in a 2018 interview with NPR.
“When they go home, they struggle to pay the rent or the mortgage,” he added.
Behr pointed out that the poorest can often wait until the last minute to evacuate, resulting in little or no availability for affordable hotel rooms.
“When you go through this cycle once or twice, you are more skeptical,” he added. “There is a feeling of storm fatigue. You tend to wait and see.”
Language and literacy can also be a barrier initially
When English is not someone’s first language, planning for a natural disaster such as a hurricane makes things a bit difficult.
And although many warnings and emergency notices are now printed in English and Spanish, there is still a gap for those who speak other languages.
More than 400,000 households in Florida speak Haitian as their main common language, according to at the Census Bureau. Tens of thousands of Floridians speak Portuguese, French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Arabic, German, Russian, Italian, or another language as their primary common language at home.
“Looking at an evacuation map in a county in Florida, I saw they had it in English and Spanish and I thought ‘OK, that’s great.’ But there are also people there who may not speak either language,” Cuite said.
Cuite says that alongside the language barrier which is an issue for people, there are also different levels of literacy to consider.
“Some people may not be able to read, which makes it difficult to find their evacuation zone,” she said.
Sometimes a little awareness can help the most vulnerable
There are elderly people living alone in flood-prone areas who might be able to evacuate, but just need extra help to do so.
“They may be elderly residents living independently. And so, you know, they rely on the government,” John Renne, a professor at Florida Atlantic University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, said in a statement. interview in 2017 with NPR.
“The more social service agencies, non-profit organizations we can enlist to help with their evacuation, even if it’s only a few miles, the more prepared and better they will be, and the less likely the event might be. become tragic,” he said. added.