Tornado study: Government can facilitate recovery with private-sector leadership

Posted: Monday, 09 September 2013

Citizen Government can best facilitate recovery from natural disasters by allowing the private sector to lead the response, according to a new study by Troy University economists Daniel Smith and Daniel Sutter.

The study, “Response and Recovery from the Joplin Tornado: Lessons Applied and Lessons Learned," published in Fall 2013 issue of The Independent Review, is based on dozens of interviews by the authors in Joplin after the deadly 2011 tornado.

The authors found a rapid recovery occurring despite the devastation, led by the voluntary sector. Businesses found innovative ways to reopen quickly, kept employees on payroll, and accommodated customers' special needs. Over 90,000 volunteers trekked to Joplin in the weeks and months after the tornado to assist in the recovery. The private sector provided 90 percent of the temporary housing and nonprofit organizations built more than 100 new homes for residents without adequate insurance.

“In contrast to other communities struck by disaster recently and against FEMA guidelines, city officials took a hands-off approach to recovery, consistent with the Joplin community's spirit of independence and self-reliance," said Dr. Sutter, the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics in the University's Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy.

“City officials concentrated on removing debris, reestablishing utility services, and reopening the public schools on time for the new school year in August and did not try to direct or supplant voluntary efforts. Joplin provides a blue print for other communities to follow in the future," he said.