Four years ago (this month actually), I remember watching the first news reports of hurricane Katrina ravaging the Gulf Coast. Some of the images of the devastating storm I can still recall vividly today. As years passed, news about the recovery effort in New Orleans dwindled. So I was interested to find out that we published a new paper today that analyzes how business owners made decisions on whether or not to re-open their companies after Katrina.
A group of researchers from Louisiana State University, Tulane University and Texas State University were conducting this study in an effort to understand how business decisions are made after a natural disaster.
The team conducted multiple phone surveys from 2005 – 2007 in order to track factors that led to the likelihood a business would re-open or remain closed after the hurricane. Over the course of the surveys, Professor Lam and colleagues found that business owners felt barriers to re-opening their business changed over time.
For example, in the first survey businesses ranked levee protection as their top concern. However, by the final survey business owners seemed more concerned with damage to locations, financing, communications and crime.
The research also underscores the need to have public policy and emergency plans in place prior to an actual disaster in order to increase the likelihood of business return. If guidelines are in place for issues like infrastructure protection and communication, these policies could be enacted quickly and would help business owners decide on whether they should reopen after a major disaster.
“What happened to New Orleans was unprecedented,” Lam said, but with more research she feels that hopefully they can avoid the long-term fallout of future natural disasters.
This study is freely accessible and can be downloaded by visiting PLoS ONE.