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"Shelter in place" becomes martial law

Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.
We have all witnessed hours of media discussion revolving around the Boston terrorists and the subsequent manhunt, but there is one aspect of the manhunt that has received little attention. It is the use of the “shelter in place” protocol. First of all, let's review the intent and definition of “shelter in place” warnings.

Per the Red Cross:

One of the instructions you may be given in an emergency where hazardous materials may have been released into the atmosphere is to shelter-in-place. This is a precaution aimed to keep you safe while remaining indoors. (This is not the same thing as going to a shelter in case of a storm.) Shelter-in-place means selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there.
Per Wikipedia:

Shelter in place (SAME code: SPW) is an emergency procedure for people affected by a chemical accident or terrorist attack. It entails taking immediate shelter in a readily accessible location, such as a small room, and sealing it from outside contaminants and shutting off all HVAC systems. Depending on the exact situation, everyone within a specific distance of the incident may be ordered to shelter in place or people within a closer range may be ordered to evacuate while everyone else shelters in place. Sheltering in place is generally only used for a short period of time.
Clearly, “shelter in place” is not appropriate for the situation of a manhunt. It is specifically intended for hazardous air-born dangers. Has the definition of “shelter in place” changed? As used during the Boston manhunt, “shelter in place” morphed into something more akin to martial law. Is this an example of a slippery slope? A misuse or expansion of power?

The “shelter in place” process is intimately tied to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and other technologies such as Reverse 911, which allow authorities to make emergency announcements. Do those announcements now translate into specific orders or commands, to be obeyed under penalty of law? Is this an abuse of the system, and does it violate legal boundaries? Obviously this would be a question for legal scholars and the courts, but the question must be raised.

Some would say that the Boston situation was extraordinary, and that it required extraordinary measures. Was the actual situation which led to the “shelter in place” declaration really that extraordinary? Perhaps a breakdown of the events would be helpful:

  • The lock-down of Boston was extraordinary.
  • A hot pursuit chase for a criminal is ordinary.
  • A relatively small, Police perimeter, where a fugitive is hiding is ordinary.
  • Shoot-outs with the Police happen occasionally, but are not daily occurrences. These will always generate a much larger Police response. Not really "extraordinary" though.

The only thing that was truly "extraordinary" in this case was the initial crime, and the subsequent over-reaction of the authorities to nearly shut down a State. Hopefully neither become ordinary. A new type of martial law is certainly not warranted, especially not one that evolves from an emergency warning system into a government command and dictate system.

Updated 04-21-2013 at 06:37 PM by Brian4Liberty