Egan had some experience with wildfires and thought the property was savable. “It’s definitely at your own risk if you stay — and do not expect anybody to come and help you,” Egan told DW.
The decision to stay and defend the home using a firefighting pump and hose was part of Egan’s fire plan. But when his house was caught in the blaze and the heat became too much, he was forced to stop defending his home and shelter in his neighbour’s more fireproof house.
“I don’t really like the term firefighting because it’s as though you can fight it,” says Egan. “You can’t really, you can only manage your survival and maybe direct the path of the fire if you’ve got bulldozers.”
In extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires, some people will stay to defend their homes despite evacuation warnings. It is a choice more and more people will be forced to make as the planet heats up. “Home is really almost indistinguishable from who we are,” says Frank McAndrew, a social psychologist and professor of psychology at Knox College in the US. “It is the one place in the world that we supposedly have control over. No one else can even come in there without our permission.”
For many people home is more than a shelter. It’s their safe space, a place they have made their own, filled with items that connect them to their past, and where memories were made.
“It’s the repository of all of the things that make you who you are,” McAndrew says. There are many reasons why someone might not evacuate despite serious risk to their life. Depending on the type of hazard, the advice might even be to stay inside the home.
Some people’s entire livelihoods are tied up in their homes. Insurance for damage caused by extreme weather events may be too costly for some, while others who live in risk areas can find it difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to find a company that will insure their property.
One of the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina — a category 5 hurricane that hit the US in 2005 and killed more than 1,800 people — was that some people were not willing to leave their pets behind. This has led to the creation of evacuation areas specifically for animals.
In some cases, such as with the July floods in northern Europe, warnings that come too late or not at all take the decision out of people’s hands. In these situations, it might even be safer for people to stay in their home, said Sarah McCaffrey, a social scientist for the Rocky Mountain Research Station at the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. Some people stay because they have a business they want to save, or they believe they can protect their home. Similar concerns were seen in research that looked at people living in three cyclone-prone coastal sites in Bangladesh.
When cyclones hit the island of Mazer Char, as Cyclone Sidr did in 2007, some people could afford to leave their house and belongings behind because the cyclone didn’t impact their food security, said Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, a senior researcher in (im)mobility, climate change and well-being at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human security. But others felt that this loss of assets would put their survival at risk because they wouldn’t be able to provide food for their families.
“A fisherman who had put his life savings into his fishing nets or boat may not feel that he is able to leave these behind,” Ayeb-Karlsson told DW.
This article was provided by Deutsche Welle