Thursday, May 4, 2006

Private Companies Outperform Government Agencies in Katrina Disaster

In yesterdays L.A. Times newspaper, there was an article entitled, "Report Details Katrina Communications Fiasco." Inside the article are details of how private companies responded much more effectively to the Katrina disaster than did U.S. Government agencies. Here are a few excerpts:

Private firms were often more adept at meeting the challenges.

The Starwood hotel company, "through effective panning and pre-positioning of phones," helped about 2,100 people -- guests, employees and their families -- in two of its hotels by deploying satellite phones and using batteries to maintain Internet connections.

"Local responders and journalists sometimes relied on Starwood's communications capabilities since the city's communications system was largely lost," the report says.

Mississippi Power Co. relied on an internal system, Southern-Linc Wireless, that had been designed with "considerable redundancy." Within three days of [hurricane Katrina's] landfall, it was functioning at nearly 100%. The utility also installed its own microwave capability to 12 remote staging areas.

Surprise, surprise! Private organizations are more capable at adapting to, and preparing for, emergencies or drastic changes. They should be good at it, since they are adapting all the time in the free market. What's especially sad about this is that these private companies aren't disaster-specialized companies. Starwood hotel company? Please! They are supposed to be experts at providing hotel rooms, not emergency services. Yet, they managed to outperform a Government agency that was specifically designed to handle emergencies: FEMA.

Some people would protest, and say "But FEMA was a clusterfuck of incompetence! Surely a better run Government agency could perform better." While this may be true, it still does not justify Government. If a hotel company can outperform the disaster-response agency known as FEMA, I contend that even a well prepared government disaster-response agency would not be able to perform as efficiently or effectively as a privately-run and competitive disaster-response company.

The government is not justifiable in arguments of principle, nor in utilitarian arguments.

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