May 22, 2008

Delivering The Goods: Lessons Learned In Disaster Response

Steven Horwitz

Former Senior Affiliated Scholar

Eileen Norcross

Senior Research Fellow

As the 1000-day anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, many wonder exactly when the Gulf Coast will be back to normal, and why the recovery process has moved so slowly. With hurricane season 2008 quickly approaching, it's a good time to look at the lessons learned from the most expensive natural disaster in history. On Thursday, May 22nd, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University hosts a discussion on the effective disaster response from the public and private sectors.

Dr. Steven Horwitz explains how both public and private institutions must have the right incentives in order to be successful in their disaster response efforts. His recently published paper "Making Hurricane Response More Effective" notes the need for disaster response to happen at the local level, and involve the kind of local knowledge that managers of local business and officers in the US Coast Guard possess.

Eileen Norcross discusses problems in Louisiana's distribution of federal disaster aid, called the Road Home program and the more successful fund distribution in Mississippi's program. Her study "The Road Home: Helping Homeowners in the Gulf after Katrina" argues that while trying to prevent fraud is a laudable goal, a quick turnaround for disaster relief checks is a more important objective because it fuels the larger recovery process.