Tidal Surges: Why would people ignore an evacuation call?

Ch Insp Russ Cole with volunteers

Ch Insp Russ Cole with volunteers

Last Thursday I drove out into the snow for the village of Jaywick after the police announced they were planning to evacuate the 2,500 or so residents ahead of a tidal surge.

I was disarmed by the honesty of the police officer in charge of the evacuation that night. Without prompting, he voiced his fears that the evacuation call might be ignored.

As I wrote for the BBC, the officer was keen to get the message across that the police were “not crying wolf”.

It almost beggared belief that potential fatal floodwaters were expected but the people in the line of fire planned to remain in their homes and “sit it out”.

Evacuation Centre, Jaywick

Evacuation Centre, Jaywick

I wondered whether there was something about this situation that reflected the times in which we live – one in which the opinions of “experts” are lambasted daily, forecasting ridiculed and truth decided democratically rather than empirically.

Volunteers at Evacuation Centre, Jaywick

Volunteers at Evacuation Centre, Jaywick

Perhaps there was an element of that. One man explained nothing bad happened during the last tidal surge in 2013, so nothing would happen this time around.

But what made most people decide to stay put was the existence of a greater fear – that of burglary/looting. In their own minds, many people had decided the risk to property was greater than risk to life and chose to ignore the advice of the experts.

And the surge passed without incident, thankfully, yet again.

But what about next time?

Supplies at Evacuation Centre, Jaywick

Supplies at Evacuation Centre, Jaywick

Volunteers at the Evacuation Centre, Jaywick

Volunteers at the Evacuation Centre, Jaywick

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