Should We Evacuate?

As I gathered articles from various news sources, Henry W. Fisher’s proposal of disaster time periods helped me to categorize the timing of Hurricane Sandy as well as the behavioral and organizational responses that Hurricane Sandy provoked.  Fischer suggests that disasters are best understood when divided into five periods: the pre-impact period, the impact period, the immediate post-impact period, the recovery period, and the long-term reconstruction period (Fischer 15). For our research purposes, we are focusing on the impact, the immediate post-impact, and the recovery periods.  Even though I was able to sort the news sources into the appropriate disaster time period, I was constantly asking myself how Hurricane Sandy is being presented to a public audience and what information is being excluded from this framework.

While an impact period is recognized as the shortest and most dangerous, I was surprised to read about the portrayal of flexibility regarding evacuations.  Perhaps I was not as informed as I should have been at the time, but the entire procedure seems to have lacked accurate knowledge about the storm.  In Cara Buckley’s article, “Panicked Evacuations Mix With Nonchalance in Hurricane Sandy’s Path,” she describes how hundreds of thousands of residents from Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey were ordered to leave their homes.  It is still unclear to me exactly who was ordered to leave.  However, I wonder whether or not “ordered” is even the correct word to use in this context.  Instead, people seemed to interpret an evacuation to be recommended, yet not entirely necessary.

Because of the deaths that had occurred in the Caribbean, governors of coastal states, such as Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, and Virginia, were prompted to declare states of emergency.  In Mayor Bloomberg’s address to residents of New York City on the Saturday evening prior to the storm, he had yet to order an evacuation for “low-lying areas such as Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Far Rockaway, Midland Beach, and Staten Island’s South Beach” (Tartar).   Though Bloomberg warned these residents about power outages and flooding, he focused more on encouraging New Yorks “to make any potential last-minute evacuations by putting together ‘go bags’” (Tartar).  Buckley complements this description of Bloomberg’s address and adds that, “People who stayed behind would not face arrest, though Mr. Bloomberg said they would not only put themselves at risk, but also possible endanger the lives of emergency responders” (Buckley).  While Buckley concedes to the resistance that some New Yorkers experienced, I am curious if such responses were potentially considered to be selfish by others, especially those who had committed to evacuating.

Did people resist such precautions because they did not want to be inconvenienced or did they feel as if they had not received ample notice?  Did they perceive themselves as invincible? Do natural disasters tend to illuminate the impulsivity that some people experience or are people more inclined to carefully contemplate their options?  Because some people were reluctant to leave and others took the threat more seriously, I am unsure as to whether these responses are due to the residents’ lack of understanding of the storm’s severity or a lack of proper articulation on behalf of government representatives.

WORKS CITED

Buckley, Cara. “Panicked Evacuations Mix With Nonchalance in Hurricane Sandy’s Path.” The New York Times. 28 October 2012. Web. 6 February 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com>.

Fischer, Henry W. 2008. “What is a Disaster?” Pp. 1-18 in Response to Disaster: Fact versus Fiction and Its Perpetuation. New York: University Press of America.

Tartar, Andre and Caroline Bankoff. “Frankenstorm Is at Hurricane Strength.” New York Magazine. 27 October 2012. Web. 4 February 2013. <http://www.nymag.com>.

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monica byrne

writer . playwright . artist . activist . traveler

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