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Disaster Capitalist vs. Disaster Preventionist

It is purported that natural disasters cost the US, alone, $306 billion in 2017. There is no denying the fact that humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) is an industry. Few understand the full scope of this, or like to associate the word “business” with humanitarian operations, but whether an NGO, a Federal agency, or a contractor, disaster response is big time business.

The response ecosystem, as it stands today, is predominantly predicated on a reactionary recovery model where resources, infrastructure and funds are allocated to “response” efforts. The approach, in addition to being reactionary based instead of proactive, is also very top-down vs. bottom up. While the conversation, and focus is shifting to place more emphasis on proactive readiness and local capacity building, it will be years before bureaucracies, ingrained institutional culture and operating norms allows the HADR community to adapt, modernize and meet current demands effectively.

Ricardo Montes powered his cigar rolling studio in the mountains with a car battery to have cigars to sell to support his family and community in the immediate aftermath of Maria.

With the widely touted statistic that for every $1 spent on proactive emergency readiness measures $6 are saved on relief and recovery spend, it is clear that a new market opportunity is presenting itself. Disaster prevention and proactive readiness should pique the interest of the entire ecosystem. From insurance companies to local municipalities, small businesses, NGOs and entrepreneurs, making communities “ready” is now a quantifiable proposition.

There is no question that “disaster capitalism” is a reality that is often exploitative and inequitable in nature. But, it is not as black and white and or as linear as seminal authors in the space like Naomi Klein make it out to be in works including The Shock Doctrine and The Battle for Paradise.

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