why weren't there for-profit hurricane evacuators during Katrina?

suppose we conclude that New Orleans civil service is just too dumb and useless to handle this type of crisis. So, when the things were hitting the fan, why didn’t somebody open a business of evacuating people for money? The evacuees could pay themselves or else possibly such a business could have agreed with some government authority to get money for helping the indigent. Maybe the Mayor could have paid to evacuate some of his voters out of his pocket…

So why didn’t this happen? Were the potential evacuees just unwilling to evacuate until the moment when doing so in an economical manner became unviable? Or is this just a market failure because the situation itself was too unusual?

Is it your belief that the people who didn’t evacuate New Orleans had the money to do so and only lacked the means?

Much of what went wrong was the Bush Administration’s fault, not Louisiana’s much less the private sector’s. They refused to do their job properly, and prevented others from doing so. Intentionally or not, they went to some lengths to make the disaster worse.

How could a company make a profit out of something like this? What would they do in between once-in-decades disasters? A disaster like this is exactly the sort of things governments are better at. When they aren’t being deliberately mismanaged, at least.

suppose there is no BUS for me to leave the city being flooded. Or maybe no BOAT. So, along comes a BUSINESS that lets me board that bus/boat and charges me $100 for that. Pretty simple, right? They profit because I pay more for the bus ride than what would be normal in good weather.

The question is not about what Bush should or should not have done. It is about, why weren’t there people evacuating people for money. Profit motive, after all, springs eternal, regardless of Bush, Washington etc.

I do understand that this is a rare event, so you cannot make a company with nice uniforms to exist for this purpose for many years. But, during the hurricane itself, you can still go, rent a bus and do the evacuation. Or maybe use your own old truck. I mean, human ingenuity is endless.

Because the people with the means to evacuate did just that. They got the hell out.

I don’t have any direct knowledge of New Orleans in hurricanes, but I recall buses being rented to evacuate nursing homes during Houston’s last big hurricanes. If I were a bus line operator, that would be the kind of contract that I would want, rather than waiting around to see who decides to pay me to evacuate them rather than taking their own transportation, hitching a ride with friends or family, or just battening down and riding it out.

Edited to add: There would also be the issue of where this private evacuation service was evacuating people to. People who would be willing to pay to get out of the city might not necessarily be willing to pay to go to whatever city you’ve picked as the destination for your bus.

Bush’s people refused to let other people in to help, for profit or otherwise. It was in the news at the time I recall; everything from private citizens to the military wanting to help and being told “No”. Bush and his subordinates were central to the disaster.

I think the people who didn’t get out:

  1. didn’t have the money to fund their own evacuation, and
  2. didn’t have anywhere to evacuate to.

If there’s no centralized refugee center to evacuate to (that will be providing food and lodging), that means you’re living on your own dime in unfamiliar territory where you don’t have any source of income.

If you lack the resources to sustain yourself away from your home turf, then it does no good to evacuate; might as well stay in your neighborhood and tough it out.

It’s impossible to market such a business.

If you charge money to evacuate people you will be deep fried in the press (and very possibly the courts) for anyone who died because they couldn’t afford to evacuate. Many places have laws requiring people to render aid if aid is needed. You can’t charge for that.

And the actual emergency services will be exceptionally offended if one of your “for profit” evacuation vehicles gets in the way of official evacuation processes. And woe be ye should one of your paid evacuation vehicles require rescuing.

Ultimately the concept exists. A rich person can hire a helicopter or fast boat to fly/sail them out of town when the interstate is too crowded. Any vehicle for hire becomes an evacuation for hire vehicle in practice in that case.

The people who didn’t leave ahead of time

  1. Didn’t want to


  1. Couldn’t afford to
    A for-profit business wouldn’t have helped either of these groups

I find pan1’s comment to be very informative, thank you.

About Bush telling people no, could someone clarify? I always thought that Bush could only tell no to government officials and military. Did he also take active measures to restrict activities of private organizations? Or is it a matter of Bush messing with public response whereas those wonderful statist regulations that pan1 brings up messing with the private one?

Take a look at a road map of Louisiana sometime. Look real hard for workable evacuation routes. Bear in mind that going East or West is risky, because you don’t know which way the storm is going to turn. Also factor in that everybody East or West of New Orleans is also trying to get out of the area. South is contra-indicated. That leaves North. Do you have any idea how crowded the few existing roads North were? Houston (or maybe Galveston, somewhere in Texas) had a disaster with something like that not too terribly long ago. Traffic was so bad, people were trapped on the highway when the storm hit.

Consider that the “main” route north from New Orleans is I-10 West to I-55 North. From downtown New Orleans, you’re looking at traveling 30-40 miles on a highway built on pilings over a swamp. Water is rising, wind, storms, and pretty much the whole way is bumper to bumper probably all the way to Jackson, MS…which incidentally also took heavy damage from the storm, which was still a Cat 1 Hurricane when it reached Jackson, about 200 miles inland. Also think about what you’re going to do with all those people if you get them out. Good luck finding a hotel room south of Memphis. Shelters were packed to overflowing already.

From a business point of view, this poses potentially massive liability as a common carrier, damn near impossible to accomplish at all, and highly unlikely to generate much in the way of profit as pretty much everybody that could afford to get out did get out. The folks at the Superdome were there because they had no where else to go, and no way to get there if they had a place to go.

ok, from what Oakminster says I can see that another big issue was just technological feasibility of evacuation given the road conditions. Got it.

About the lack of money, you know, I am not convinced. People can sign IOUs too, not just pay cash. Plus, if the private organization doing it was more of a “non profit” type, they could hypothetically set up a donations process asking to donate over the internet those $100 per evacuee they bring to a certain location. They could have invited some journalists to publicly witness the people actually being brought there too, and so forth for greater legitimacy.

But of course, yes, I understand that even with the financial issues solved the technological limitations and the threat of government persecution (no good deed goes unpunished and all that) remain.

You really want to take an IOU from a guy whose major assets (and likely those of his employer as well) are directly in the path of a Cat 5 Hurricane?

Wanna play poker sometime?

What he said. You maybe could make the case that people should have private extra-gold-plated insurance against this sort of thing - you know, fly your household out in helicopters (provided they stay up in a hurricane), but the kinds of risks and the kinds of returns in those situations are not good business opportunities - I would venture that the few people who were really able to afford a full scale private rescue mission were out already, simply because they could reasonably see the consequences beforehand and afford to move everything they wanted. This sort of shit is exactly what communal services are for.

when it was all over, the (surviving) evacuees got showered with money by the government (as could be expected, btw). Plus, many of them have some sort of source of income in normal times - welfare, drug dealing, odd jobs etc. So yes, you could probably use a collection agency to go track them down and make them make good on the IOU :slight_smile:

Further, like I said, you could also get somebody else to give you money for saving the poor and indigent. Americans give lots of money to charity, especially to charities that convincingly get good things done.

If some crook walked up to me on the street and offered to evacuate me and my family for the low, low introductory price of $329.95, I would tell them to buzz off, regardless of impending disaster.
Disasters draw in con artists like shit does flies. Any private company woud need a serious reputation for integrity in order to draw in [del]suckers[/del] I mean clients under disaster conditions. There being a disaster as part of the scenario here, getting involved would also involve some pretty serious risk to the company’s reputation when all does not go swimmingly.
What sort of sane corporate management would go in for a small return on a major risk to the corporate reputation, to say nothing of likely lawsuits?

Oh yeah. That was such a sweet deal. You get to move your family into a government camper smaller than most hotel rooms and eat that oh so yummy government cheese. If that wasn’t unmitigated joy enough, you also find out that the “Good Hands People” that sold you homeowner’s insurance refuse to pay for flood damage, and amazingly, they just know that your claim was caused by flood water, not wind, fire, or anything else, so they aren’t gonna pay. Even though the lot where your house used to be now contains nothing but a concrete slab. They did that shit to former Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), so guess how kind and loving they were to people that were not former U.S. Senators?

But hey, you then get the orgasmic bliss of class action litigation that only takes a few years before you still don’t get paid much of anything. WooHoo! Party Over Here!

Exactly, and code_grey?

Fuck you.

Ask yourself this: if you were in possesion of the machinery to evacutate a home during or right after a hurricane, would you evacuate a welfare mother with 3 kids and no home (anymore), in the hopes of making your money back?