911 calls reveal danger of ignoring evacuation orders

When a hurricane comes, if officials say to evacuate, do it. But there are always a few who decide to ignore those warnings and 911 call audio released this week reveals the dangers of those decisions.

A new AAA survey found more than 20% of Floridians ignore an evacuation warning. It can be a grim and distressing time, as detailed in hundreds of 911 calls from Bay County the day Hurricane Michael made landfall.

Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Panhandle of Florida Oct. 10, 2018, and ended up being a Category 5 storm that killed nearly 50 people.

Most heeded orders to evacuate, but too many did not.

"Hi yes, ma’am, my roof is coming off my house," a caller told a 911 dispatcher.

“We’re stuck in our house, and we need help immediately,” said another 911 caller.

Bay County dispatchers had to tell hundreds of 911 callers they were on their own.

A Bay County dispatcher told one caller, “We had to pull all of our deputies off the road because weather conditions are so bad right now. So we can’t transport anybody, sir, unfortunately.”

Residents called to report trees crashing into their homes, down power lines, and shattered windows. Dispatchers explained it would be hours before help arrived.

“Ma’am, it’s going to be after the storm passes where we can get back on the road, OK? Take a deep breath,” said a dispatcher to a woman who called 911 from her home.

The woman asked in distress, “What are we supposed to do until then? Half the house is gone.”

The dispatcher answered, “I know half the house is gone, but we can’t get on the road.”

There was nothing dispatchers could do for the injured other than give instructions over the phone.

"My mom fell and hit her head,” said one 19-year-old caller.

“I need you to apply pressure to the wound. Is she conscious?” asked the dispatcher.

One neighbor called 911 to report that another neighbor was unconscious.

“He just come outside and he passed out in his driveway. He’s not responding,” said the neighbor who called. “Please help me, he’s turning purple right now.”

“Okay, so do you want me to tell you CPR?” asked the dispatcher, and she proceeds to instruct him on how to perform compressions.

Republican Senator Rick Scott stressed Thursday the importance of listening to evacuation orders.

“We worked hard to get people to understand that they had to evacuate because we had 9 foot of storm surge,” said Scott. “Unfortunately in the Mexico city beach area and in the Panama City area, we lost individuals.”

Dispatchers helped the callers as best they could and told them to find a safe place in their house as the storm passed. Emergency officials say it’s very important for people to be prepared and to listen to evacuation orders during storms.