Disaster Planning: Free Market vs. Government

Sadly, most conversations regarding damage, preparedness and reaction to catastrophes take place during or AFTER an event takes place.  Such is the nature of people, and is what separates us from even squirrels.  Even they gather for the winter.

However, there are people, organizations who do look ahead and plan.  They take the responsibility seriously and give great thought to the subject.  These people study disasters and recoveries.  In fact, the organizations they work in are aptly named; Disaster Recovery.  We have one for my company, in fact, we have staff at my building.

As with anything, there are certain people more skilled at this than others.  In fact, again, just like we would expect, there are groups of people, organizations, that are better at it than other groups of people.  It should not surprise anyone that when it comes to government preparedness and the private sector’s planning, who’s side I’ll take.

Consider this: Via Carpe Diem

Forecasters don’t expect Hurricane Irene to make landfall until Saturday. But for nearly a week now, big-box retailers like Walmart and Home Depot have been getting ready.

They’ve deployed hundreds of trucks carrying everything from plywood to Pop-Tarts to stores in the storm’s path. It’s all possible because these retailers have turned hurricane preparation into a science.

At Home Depot’s Hurricane Command Center in Atlanta, for example, about 100 associates have been trying to anticipate how Irene will affect its East Coast stores from the Carolinas to New York.

At times like this, the Command Center looks much like NASA Mission Control during a shuttle launch, says Russ Householder, the company’s emergency-response captain.

“We’ve got all the key news agencies on the big screens up front,” he says. “We’re also monitoring our store sales so we can better be in tune to what’s happening in our stores, and we’re also connected live one-on-one with district managers in the impacted areas.”

Walmart is able to anticipate surges in demand during emergencies by using a huge historical database of sales from each store as well as sophisticated predictive techniques, Cooper says.

He says that with Irene on the way, that system is helping them allocate things like batteries, ready-to-eat foods and cleaning supplies to areas in the storm’s path.

Walmart also has the advantage of having a staff meteorologist, Cooper says.

Walmart’s preparedness system helped the company emerge as a hero after Katrina, says Steve Horwitz, an economist at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., who studied the company’s response.

“They know exactly what people want after a hurricane,” he says. “One of my favorite stories from Katrina is that the most popular food item after a major storm like this is strawberry Pop-Tarts.”

Wanna see what Wal-Mart’s preparation for moving supplies in, before Katrina, looked like?

Care to see the Government’s preparation for moving people OUT?

As 1,000’s of people needed to leave the city, a city that sits BELOW sea level, the government left a fleet of buses to simply flood.

Government simply can not DO like the private, for profit, sector operating in a free market.


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