Joplin, Missouri bore the brunt of it. But the results broke the hearts of millions of Americans, and not just those in the heartland. In May 2011, one of the most deadly twisters in U.S. history tore through Joplin. Residents there will never forget it. It also serves as a classic reminder of the need for tornado preparedness. Now, a newly released study claims the Joplin tornado recovery is also something important to remember and model.
The tornado which struck Joplin, Missouri caused 158 deaths and nearly 1,200 more injuries. Estimates of damages related to the twister were nearly $2.9 billion. These killer statistics ranked this tornado as the 7th worst in American history.
Tornado Recovery: Some Lessons Learned
A pair of economists from Alabama’s Troy University studied how the Joplin community recovered from the deadly tornado. Economists Daniel Sutter and Daniel Smith and Daniel Sutter just had the findings from their study published in the Fall 2013 of The Independent Review.
Here is a summary of their observations and discoveries:
The community of Joplin, Missouri came together in many ways to achieve a rapid recovery. They also received notable support from outside the local community. Economists Sutter and Smith report the tornado recovery efforts were led mostly by the voluntary sector. But they also benefited from tremendous private sector support.
The Joplin tornado recovery efforts were lifted and fast-tracked by more than 90,000 volunteers who joined in during the aftermath of the twister. Meantime, the private sector came up big by delivering more than 90 percent of the temporary housing needed at the time. The Troy University study credits non-profit organizations for their important contributions to the recovery. They took action in building more than 100 new homes for residents of Joplin who were left stranded by inadequate insurance coverage. Within two months of the tornado, Joplin area residents filed roughly 17,000 insurance claims based on their damage suffered.
The report showed that Joplin businesses worked hard and in innovative ways to get quickly get back to a place of stability. They were successful in discovering solutions to re-open shortly following the twister. They also found creative ways to keep their valued employees on the company payrolls. This helped businesses to better respond to their customer’s special needs in the aftermath of the deadly tornado.
Get Out of the Way Government
Getting government to get out of the way and stay there is pretty much the recommendation of the Troy University economists based upon the findings of their study. Daniel Sutter said, “Against FEMA guidelines, Joplin city officials took a hands-off approach in the tornado recovery.” He points out how this approach employed by Joplin was in contrast to the disaster responses of other communities. Instead, they did what was consistent with their own local community’s spirit of self-reliance and independence.
Joplin city officials focused their recovery efforts on three specific areas of support. They focused immediately on the removal of debris. They worked quickly to restore the public utility services. And to assist further in returning the community to a sense of normalcy , they got the public schools ready to open their doors on time in August for the new school year. Sutter commends Joplin city officials saying, “They did not try to direct or supplant voluntary efforts.”
The economists from Troy University believe the Joplin tornado recovery model is one which could help to improve future responses and recoveries in America from natural disasters such as tornadoes. Their report recommends government giving time and space to allow the private sector to successfully lead response and recovery efforts as shown clearly in the Joplin tornado recovery. Such a recommendation is in bold contrast to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and its guidelines.
Economist Sutter makes clear the opinion of the Troy University report’s findings stating, “Joplin provides a blueprint for other communities to follow in the future.”