Hurricane Michael aftermath: Is banning alcohol sales in a storm zone a good idea? Can polling help in the future?

National Weather Service – Weather Forecast Office Mobile/Pensacola, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73518052

Let me start this piece by saying I am all for free expression and free will. I understand people have different ways of coping with danger and fear. Alcohol is one of them, for better or worse.

In the case of countless storms in the past I’ve worried about the prospect of “hurricane parties” (like the legendary one alleged to taken place during Hurricane Camile, but maybe never actually occurred but was believable) and general drunken behavior which costs lives. I even tweeted about my concerns in the advance of Michael, urging anyone with a family (including pets in my definition) to lay off the booze.

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Unfortunately, the aftermath of Michael leads myself and others to believe people didn’t lay off the juice AND now expect FEMA and state government to help them. It’s unfortunate we have to have this discussion, but perhaps much like the end of sporting events, alcohol sales should be banned by the state in areas under a Hurricane Watch or Warning. While this might seem a rash discussion to be had, in the wake of Michael, it’s a conversation some are having, and one I personally welcome. I simply do not think people can react with the sort of judgement needed to save a family, pet or property in a split-second when consuming alcohol. There has to be a better way to deal with a major storm.

Again, I understand the need many have to relieve stress and cope with the onset of a potentially life threatening situation. But my thinking and that of some others is that personal responsibility should take over and if residents are going to want government assistance, they ought to comply by certain rules if they stay in areas where trained meteorologists and emergency operations personnel have mandated or recommended evacuation. If personal responsibility doesn’t work, government can’t be held responsible and must look to solving the problem in the future even by means which on the surface may appear draconian. 

It’s unfortunate but those people who make a conscious decision not to evacuate perhaps should not tie up government services when many others in need played by the rules and are suffering in the aftermath of a storm.

But why don’t folks evacuate when warnings are clearly given and the evidence of what can happen in a major hurricane is available for all to observe?

Perhaps it is the political science side of me, but I see the only solution to really understanding human psychology with regards to not evacuating and the consumption of alcohol is to poll and use social science to drill deeper. We must learn the human needs that motivate people not to evacuate danger zones and to consume beverages that potentially makes matters in a storm much worse.

We need to be willing to pay for some in-depth polling and focus groups among residents of coastal Florida who have chosen not to evacuate in the past. We need to employ social scientists to ascertain the psychological reasons for not evacuating and consuming alcohol in a storm. We then need to enter the 2019 Hurricane Season in Florida with a new approach, one that tailors evacuation messaging and storm warnings to the findings of scientists and pollsters.

It’s easy to blame FEMA and government – it happens after every storm and often times bureaucracy is inefficient. But given the reality of today, where coastal over-development thanks to politicians of both parties has put our state’s residents in great jeopardy and the growing mantra of individualism and toughing out storms, government should be cut some slack and personal responsibility should take over. In the meantime, government should take effective steps to safeguard the population better and understand why they react the way they do. As stated above that should include a consideration of a ban on alcohol sales and the employment of pollsters and social scientists to drill deeper and give us some answers.

3 comments

  1. Misha Carr · · Reply

    Excuse me, but isn’t the Problem the storms themselves and the fact that they are intensifying?
    Prohibition has been tried and it flopped almost a Hundred years ago. You should read up on it, in fact there’s quite an in depth documentary on it over at PBS and another about the origin of the term “the real Macoy”
    What we need especially here in the gulf states is governors who will put climate change high in their priorities, along with building practices that can withstand storms like these and ways to protect our infrastructure.

  2. What?! And lose gifs like this of Florida Man? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAnRzeTlMGc

    1. One of the only skinny men left in Florida. Glad you captured him on video for posterity.

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