Delivering the Goods: Lessons Learned in Disaster Response

May 22, 2008


Dr. Steven Horwitz
Charles Dana Professor of Economics
St. Lawrence University

Eileen Norcross
Senior Research Fellow
Mercatus Center at George Mason University 

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 will host a discussion on the effective disaster response from the public and private sectors.

Dr. Steven Horwitz will explain 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 will discuss 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.

This event will address questions such as:

  • What are the key aspects of good disaster response and what factors lead to poor disaster response?
  • What are the essential elements for effective disaster response among public-sector organizations?
  • How can government at all levels work with the private sector in disaster response?
  • Why are local institutions so important in response and recovery efforts?