Irma Aftermath 2: Meaning of “Mandatory”

“Mandatory” is defined as compulsory. “Mandatory” is also synonymous with obligatory, binding, required, requisite, necessary, essential and imperative. “Mandatory” means “you gotta’ do it.” In the case of a hurricane, “mandatory” evacuations are often ordered, but because no one is likely to be arrested and jailed for not abiding by such an order, there are usually some people who don’t think mandatory applies to them. Mandatory evaluations are not limited to hurricanes. I remember the mountain man (Harry Randall Truman) who died having defied the evacuation order prior to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. In hurricanes, the usual reasons for defying the mandatory order is thinking it is too soon to go, thinking one’s house is safe, not knowing where to go (especially if pets are involved) – basically not having a plan, or just other some form of denial. The consequence of failing to heed a mandatory order has consequences: emergency services won’t help you if you stay put in a place they probably can’t get to when the storm comes. Having lived in a mandatory evacuation zone, Melissa’s and my plans evolved over time to ensure we were ready as needed. In Irma, it took pressure from several angles to get 2 stubborn friends to evacuate from their mandatory evacuation zones – the police with bullhorns didn’t do it, but eventually, the threat of flooding finally sobered them up to the reality of the situation and they got out. It is hard to do, and there are risks of leaving too. But, “mandatory” is pretty black and white in the end.

Mandatory means mandatory.  Some people I know evidently believe mandatory means voluntarily, or “I will if I feel like it,” or a variety of things that imply a choice.  When someone lives in a low lying area, for example, near the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, he/she should expect to be among the first to participate in a mandatory evacuation.  David and I lived in a hurricane mandatory evacuation zone for 21 years and never, ever did we defy the Florida Governor’s order to evacuate in the event of an impending hurricane.  When we bought the house, the closing date was, ironically, scheduled for August 24, 1992, the day Hurricane Andrew devastated south Florida. Because we were concerned the owner of the house had not secured the house prior to moving out, David and I drove past it to check.  When we arrived in the neighborhood, police officers were driving down every street with bullhorns urging people to evacuate, NOW, not later, not when they felt like it, and not when it was convenient to do so.  All these years later, this memory surfaces when I hear someone is in a mandatory evacuation zone and refusing to evacuate.  Hurricanes, like funerals, never come at a convenient time.  But, if one wants to survive a hurricane instead of ending up as a statistic when fatalities and injuries are counted, then it is always necessary to evacuate at the time of or before the end of the mandatory evacuation order.  In the words of Jacksonville’s Molly Hatchet, one of the greatest Southern rock bands of all time, choosing to stay in a mandatory evacuation zone in a hurricane is “flirtin’ with disaster.” So pack a bag and leave; hurry!

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