It’s “Tuesday Newsday,” the day when Dean Burnetti Law brings you news of recalls, legal or political events, or other important happenings…
Hold onto your hats! Batten down the hatches! Hunker down! Just as the world has stopped reeling (a little) from the devastating Tsunami in Indonesia that has claimed over 2,000 lives, and before that, Hurricane Florence that battered the Carolinas and claimed 55 lives, we have another Hurricane to make us wary. Hard-charging Hurricane Michael gained strength early this morning as it heads toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, gaining Category 2 status and poised to roar through the state with historic devastation.
The National Hurricane Center has warned that they expect the storm to make landfall Wednesday afternoon near Panama City as a Category 3 storm with torrential rains and sustained winds of up to 120 mph. Governor Rick Scott alerted us that we could expect to begin feeling Michael’s impact late today.
He proclaimed from Florida’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee that, “Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades. It’s going to be historic, a massive storm that could bring devastation.”
A state of emergency has already been called for 35 Florida counties, and evacuations have already been ordered in parts of 10 counties.
It’s no secret that a large number of people that are most affected by injuries or death during these natural disasters are the ones who were told to evacuate but refused to leave their homes. And, as if it’s not bad enough that they suffer injuries of loss of their own lives or the life of a loved one, they are also the butt of scrutiny from people who see them on the news and think, “Why didn’t they just leave? If they were too stubborn to leave their home during a mandatory evacuation, then they get what’s coming to them.”
The response to that is a resounding, “Nothing could be farther from the truth!” You see, there are many factors that could prevent someone from evacuating a danger zone that have nothing to do with them being too stubborn to leave. While it’s true that there are people who don’t realize that a hurricane is anything more than “some wind and rain,” they are actually in the minority of the people who won’t leave home.
The fact is there are numerous reasons why a person may not leave their home when their area is being evacuated. Let’s take a look at some of those reasons:
· A family member in the house suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia, and relocating them to an evacuation center would be so hard on them that the family chooses to take their chances staying home.
· A child in the home has Autism, and any change can be so upsetting to them that the family feels it would be impossible to deal with them in an evacuation center.
· The family has pets which they consider to be members of the family, and if they can’t take their pets, they can’t bring themselves to leave.
· The family cannot afford to go to a hotel nor can they afford to drive the long distance to escape, and the local evacuation centers are full.
· A family member suffers from agoraphobia or some other debilitating mental disorder, and they would suffer great mental duress if they were made to leave their home.
· A family member suffers from a severe autoimmune disorder which means that being among a crowd in a tightly-packed evacuation center could literally kill them.
· Likewise, a family member is under treatment for cancer and the chemotherapy and radiation they take depletes their immune system so much that they, too, cannot be among the general population because something as a small as a cold could easily turn into pneumonia and kill them.
· Local law enforcement may prohibit certain people from entering evacuation centers (such as when Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd refused to allow people with active warrants, registered sex offenders, and registered sexual predators to enter any shelter during Hurricane Irma last year.)
· The household consists of elderly people who are already confused and distraught about the pending storm and don’t know what to do.
· The household contains someone with such a physical disability that they are not easily transported, and they fear that a shelter won’t be able to accommodate their special needs.
· Perhaps they have certain dietary restrictions that make them feel like they would be prohibited from staying somewhere other than at home.
So, what can we do to help? I’m glad you asked. The first step it to get to know your neighbors and learn what special circumstances they might have that prevent them from evacuating a danger zone.
Perhaps they can ride with you to someplace other than a shelter, and you can split the expense so they are not burdened with the financial hardship alone.
Perhaps you have a friend or family member who would be willing to let your neighbors stay at their house so their immune system is not further compromised by being surrounded by hordes of strangers.
Perhaps you have a friend or family member who would be willing to let your neighbors bring their pets and stay at their house so they won’t have to abandon their furry companions.
Perhaps you have a friend or family member who would be willing to foster your neighbors’ pets until the danger has passed.
Perhaps you can help your special needs neighbors locate an elder center, assisted living facility, or nursing home where they can stay temporarily until the danger has passed and that is equipped to deal with their special needs.
The point is, get to know your neighbors and their needs. Find out why they don’t want to evacuate, then combine your creativity to see if you help them with a solution. Who knows? You might just save a life!
Stay safe, Florida!