The term “hurricane amnesia” is used to describe a very common trend in hurricane-prone areas of the world, in which people tend to forget the potential severity of hurricanes in the intervals between major storms. As a result of hurricane amnesia, communities and individuals may fail to plan as well as they should for big hurricanes, and as a result, they are at risk of increased hurricane damage. Organizations which focus on weather safety such as emergency services and government agencies often find hurricane amnesia extremely frustrating.
Hurricane amnesia can manifest in a number of ways. Most classically, people underplay the dangers of hurricanes outside of hurricane season, or in regions where severe hurricanes have not touched down for several years. As a result, they regard awareness campaigns and proposed safety reforms as scare tactics created by industries which profit from hurricane preparedness, rather than recognizing such campaigns as an important way to make their communities safer.
Someone with hurricane amnesia may disregard the dangers of living in a beach home, or of failing to take basic measures to make a home safer during storms, such as maintaining shutters. Hurricane amnesia can also cause people to neglect to lay in stocks of supplies which might be needed in a prolonged storm, such as candles, batteries, matches, first aid supplies, canned and dried staples, and so forth. They may also fail to be aware of evacuation centers in their area, or choose not to donate to or support causes which promote hurricane safety in their regions.
Hurricane amnesia can also lead people to neglect evacuation plans, either failing to organize such plans, or allowing plans to lapse. This means that people may not be prepared to evacuate quickly in the event of a major storm, which can cost emergency services time and potentially endanger people when they are asked to evacuate. Not being conscientious about hurricane preparation may also mean that people ignore weather warnings or fail to heed evacuation orders because they belittle the danger.
Severe hurricane seasons tend to cause hurricane amnesia to evaporate very quickly, but safety organizations are often surprised by how rapidly people become complacent again, even after major storms which cause severe damage. People who live in hurricane-prone areas should be aware of the issue of hurricane amnesia, and they are encouraged to keep up on emergency supplies, evacuation plans, and home maintenance to make sure that they are safer in the event of a severe storm.