242703 Legal, ethical and social complexities of mandatory evacuation orders during California wildfire disasters

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Melissa M. Kelley, MS , School of Public Health, Community Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Population deconcentration has resulted in rapid development in the outlying fringe of metropolitan and rural areas. This demographic change has increased the size of the wildland-urban interface, the area where structures and development meet or intermingle with the undeveloped wildland. Expansion of the wildland-urban interface in recent decades has created an environment in which fire can readily move between structural and vegetative fuels. This expansion has resulted in increased threat to people, property and the environment, which has significant health, planning and policy implications. In California, officials often order mandatory evacuations because it has been viewed as a straightforward solution to decreasing risk to wildfire-threaten populations. In many places, however, lack of resource availability, changes in the geography of risk and growing dissention among homeowners have challenged this approach. Given the increased cost, size and difficulty of fighting wildfires in recent years, authorities are at a crossroads in managing the wildfire threat to people in the US and aboard. To better understand these challenges, this presentation will examine the legal, ethical and social complexities of ordering mandatory evacuations during wildfires. This analysis will focus on: 1) public-private tensions of authority; 2) coercive tactics or penalties that could be imposed; 3) responsibilities for provisions of adequate egress and shelter; 4) rescue or assistance obligations to those that fail to comply; and 5) alternative strategies to mitigate risk. In turn, these perspectives provide an opportunity to shed light on evacuation behavior for other emergencies and disasters.

Learning Areas:
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe factors associated with mandatory evacuation orders in California. Identify structural and legal problems associated with mandatory evacuations during emergencies and disasters. Discuss alternative strategies to mitigating risk associated with mandatory evacuations during wildfires.

Keywords: Disasters, Law

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a Master of Science in Public Health with a specialization in Emergency Public Health. This research was conducted as part of a CDC-funded study on local evacuation planning in California counties. Other relevant and current research experience involves work on the National Survey on Disaster Experiences and Preparedness; California Survey of Household Earthquake Preparedness and Mitigation; an NSF-funded assessment of the public health impacts of Hurricane Katrina; and the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Community Outreach Project. My relevant professional experience includes work as a firefighter-emergency medical technician with response experience to disasters.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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