Wal-Mart and Home Depot To The Rescue
Big-box chains like Home Depot and Wal-Mart have formed emergency management teams to predict disasters and speed the recovery of customers, employees and business. Some teams have become so deft at handling emergencies that local governments turn to them.
Spurred by the Sept. 11 terror attacks and rough hurricane seasons in 2004 and 2005, more retailers have created specialized divisions to gird for emergencies. Wal-Mart's 40-member Emergency Management Department at the Arkansas headquarters of the world's biggest retailer crackles round-the-clock with sounds of scanners, radar and cable news. The goal: to speed recovery for customers, employees and ultimately sales.
As leaders in the business of moving goods and information -- Wal-Mart's famous for daily crack-of-dawn conference calls detailing real-time sales -- some have found they can react more quickly than local governments. For them, disasters have become just another cost of doing business.
Bottom Line: Another example of the invisible hand at work. Should we really be surprised though that profit-seeking corporations can react more quickly to disasters than civil servants, bureaucrats and politicians? And aren't profit-seeking "price-gougers" always there immediately after a disaster offering for sale exactly what the disaster victims need most - generators, chain saws, plywood, or water - way before the government provides those needed supplies?