Money is one of the biggest determinants when it comes to deciding whether to evacuate during a hurricane.
The results of a 1,000-person questionnaire conducted by the National Hurricane Survival Initiative found one in five Floridians won’t evacuate during a hurricane. It also suggests Floridians aren’t as prepared as they should be for the storms.
Craig Fugate is the former director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management and former administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He joined Sundial to talk about hurricane preparedness and the reasons why Floridians choose not to leave during a hurricane.
WLRN: Do you think that most people hear the warnings and evacuate?
Fugate: Historically we do get a majority of people to evacuate but the problem is we also get a lot of people who don't choose to evacuate. It's for a variety of reasons. My goal is to try and reduce the barrier so people evacuate. This is about life or death situations. A lot of times we have to evacuate so early and after the storm is over people that weren't impacted as bad ask why they had to leave. I try to remind people that there's not enough certainty in the forecast to only evacuate people that are going to have the direct impact. We end up evacuating large areas because of that uncertainty.
One of the most chilling things I ever listened to were recorded 9-1-1 calls during Hurricane Ivan from people on the coast who chose not to evacuate. The 9-1-1 communication personnel are having to tell people 'it's too late. We can't respond. We have information. Good luck. We'll try to get to you as this storm comes through,' and then they know some people made it and some people didn't.
One of the problems the poll addressed is the cost of evacuating. How do you convince that person to evacuate?
A lot of this cost is the cost of gas, the driving and going to hotels and motels. One of the good things I think that Florida has worked on is building shelter capacity in the communities and then working with the local officials of getting people transported to the shelters. We tell people during hurricane season to find out if they are in the evacuation zone and if they are then what's the plan. If you don't have the money or can't afford to go to a hotel-motel where is your closest public shelter?
Is there FEMA reimbursement for any of that for any evacuation costs?
Well not to individuals but to the government. The cost of opening up shelters, providing transportation, medical supplies and even the cost of providing pet food in shelters for evacuations are things people will reimburse state and local government for.