Questions about curfews

amite river floodingDoes the thought of a curfew bring out a defiance streak in you? I know it does for me. In the wake of a major storm or flood (pun intended), if I hear that there has been a curfew enacted, my first thought is usually something along the lines of, “I’m a grown-ass man. You can’t give me a curfew.” Then I immediately jump to some conspiratorial hyperbole about a Nazi Police State. Then, after a few deep breaths, I think it through and realize, a) it’s probably safer for everyone, and b) I wasn’t planning on going anywhere anyway.

I always associate a curfew with my teenage years. If my parents told me I had to be home by midnight, I had to be home by midnight. As I got older, I started thinking that I didn’t need a curfew; that I could use my better judgement to determine if what was going on late at night was worth the trade-off of dragging the next day. Certainly, as an adult, I have developed enough sense to know the risk versus reward of being in a place I shouldn’t be at a time I shouldn’t be there.

So when something happens like the storms that rolled through last week, and I hear about a curfew being put in place, I have that “aw hell no” moment. I get the reasoning behind it, but that defiance streak remains. Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks found himself in the position of having to implement a curfew in his Parish following the storms. I had the opportunity to talk to him about it, the damage and recovery in his parish, and couldn’t let that opportunity pass without bringing up the topic of one grown man telling another grown man he has to go home.

Ricks, as I have often found him to be, was quite candid about the topic. He said, “It is one of the hardest things you have to do, and I never make that decision lightly.” He said he consults with just about everyone involved in the recovery process before making the call. In fact, when I shared what my immediate reaction is to news of a curfew, he basically said he feels the same way, “I’m like you. I don’t want anybody telling me, of any nature what to do. I’ve got enough sense to know.”

“The primary purpose of the curfew is not to tell people that are going to work, or are trying to take care of neighbors and residents, and kin people to get off the road.” Ricks said. “The primary purpose is to keep people safe who don’t need to be on the road.” In other words, Ricks is saying that the curfew is more of a “no sightseeing” policy. People are voyeuristic by nature, and when a storm does damage to nearby areas, there is a natural tendency to want to get a firsthand look at that damage. But in a time where roads are still flooded over, especially in areas where that water likely has a current, the payoff of seeing the damage is not worth the risk of personal injury or further damage to property.

Add to that, and this is the more important point, Ricks explained that the more people you have sightseeing, the tougher it is for the people trying to return the Parish to normalcy to get their jobs done. “If people wind up stranded or in a ditch, they have to call first responders, who have to stop what they’re doing to come help them out.” So basically, when there is an “all hands on deck” situation to remove debris, get people out of flooded homes, and everything else that comes along with the post-storm effort; every additional call that could have been avoided, inevitably takes focus from the task at hand and moves it to tasks that didn’t have to happen.

All that being said, Ricks said there were no arrests and no problems as a result of the curfew.