Mercatus on Policy: Hosting a Disaster

Professor Emily Chamlee-Wright and Associate Director Daniel Rothschild examine policies that can prepare cities to host an evacuee population.

During and after Katrina, hundreds of thousands of people from across Mississippi and Louisiana were displaced to all fifty states. Some communities, notably Houston, Atlanta, and Baton Rouge, took especially large numbers of evacuees. What was initially seen as a temporary evacuation has turned into a mass migration, illustrating the uncertainty affecting host cities. Because of this uncertainty, rigid top-down structures that are, by their nature, unable to adapt to the rapidly changing environment associated with a sudden influx of people are poorly suited to leading response. Rather, by preparing for a sudden influx of people, placing an emphasis on creating communities and resuming normalcy, and making clear commitments about what services the host city will provide and when, host cities and their guests will be best suited to adapt to changing circumstances.

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