What’s the Most Effective Way to Convince People to Evacuate for a Hurricane?

hurricane evacuation sign

Like just about everyone, I’ve been following the progress of Hurricane Matthew, and have been worried to see the severe weather conditions affecting so many people – I’m reminded of Hurricane Sandy, which unleashed such devastation around New York City where I live.

Everything makes me think of the Four Tendencies, and hurricanes are no exception.

Back when Hurricane Sandy was due to hit New York City, Mayor Bloomberg ordered people in vulnerable neighborhoods to evacuate, but many refused to go—something that I, as an Upholder, found astonishing. How might a mayor word an evacuation notice, to persuade people of all Four Tendencies? Because for an important message to be effective, it needs to resonate with every Tendency.

Upholders would evacuate if the expectation is established, so the notice should state clearly that people are expected to leave. Upholders wouldn’t take much convincing.

Questioners would evacuate if they were convinced that this action made sense, so the notice should give ample justification for when, where, and with what strength the hurricane would hit, what the risks were, why actual evacuation was necessary, why each particular neighborhood was at risk, why a well-built or elevated home was nevertheless at risk. The notice should also explain what experts—meteorologists, engineers, architects—had been consulted.

Obligers would evacuate if there’s external accountability, so the notice should emphasize that failure to evacuate would put family members as well as first-responders at risk, that city workers would know whether residents have evacuated, that penalties would be imposed on those refusing to leave. It should remind people of their obligation to keep family members and neighbors safe, and to act as role models of good citizenship.

Rebels hate to be told what to do, but they’d be more willing to evacuate if staying put would limit their freedom and comfort. The notice should emphasize that people who stayed behind would be trapped in place, perhaps for days, and that conditions in their homes would be dangerous at worst, unpleasant at best—with a likely loss of electricity, running water, elevators, and public transportation. And no Chinese take-out.

NOTE: The mayor should also inform people that their names will be noted; no matter what our Tendency, we may behave differently if we’re acting anonymously.

The fact is, people respond to circumstances and language in different ways.

How else could the wording of a message appeal to different Tendencies?




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