Forget FEMA, Get Walmart in There!!

In the wake of hurricane Sandy we’re hearing stories of hungry New Yorkers being forced to dumpster dive for food.  This is in addition to the stories of looters dressing like Con Edison workers to get access to houses, elected officials expressing their frustration with the Red Cross,  state troopers being deployed to N.J. gas stations to help keep the peace, and Staten Island residents pleading for food.  It’s safe to say that the government is not really all that organized when it come to preparing for a disaster.

With all the Sandy coverage over the last week  I was reminded that in 2011 the Missouri, Mississippi, and Souris Rivers all flooded in North Dakota.  The town of Minot had to be nearly completely evacuated.  Lest there be any doubt, homes and cars were simply washed away.  Thankfully, not one person in North Dakota was forced to dumpster dive for food.  … But I digress.

Where the government sucks, the private sector rocks.  Here’s a few stories over the years about Walmart and strawberry Pop-Tarts:

Survival gear and canned goods weren’t the only go-to categories. “We didn’t know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane,” a Wal-Mart rep says. “And the pre-hurricane top-selling item was beer.”

via Adweek. (11/14/2004)

The Only Lifeline was the Walmart

Jessica Lewis couldn’t believe her eyes. Her entire community–Waveland, Miss., a Gulf Coast resort town of 7,000–had been laid waste by the storm, and Lewis, co-manager of the local Wal-Mart, was assessing the damage to her store. The fortresslike big box on Highway 90 still stood. But Katrina’s floodwaters had surged through the entrance, knocking over refrigerators full of frozen pizza, shelves of back-to-school items, racks of lingerie. Trudging through nearly two feet of water in the fading light, Lewis thought, How are we ever going to clean up this mess?

That quickly became the least of Lewis’s worries. As the sun set on Waveland, a nightmarish scene unfolded on Highway 90. She saw neighbors wandering around with bloody feet because they had fled their homes with no shoes. Some wore only underwear. “It broke my heart to see them like this,” Lewis recalls. “These were my kid’s teachers. Some of them were my teachers. They were the parents of the kids on my kids’ sports teams. They were my neighbors. They were my customers.”

Lewis felt there was only one thing to do. She had her stepbrother clear a path through the mess in the store with a bulldozer. Then she salvaged everything she could and handed it out in the parking lot. She gave socks and underwear to shivering Waveland police officers who had climbed into trees to escape the rising water. She handed out shoes to her barefoot neighbors and diapers for their babies. She gave people bottled water to drink and sausages, stored high in the warehouse, that hadn’t been touched by the flood. She even broke into the pharmacy and got insulin and drugs for AIDS patients. “This is the right thing to do,” she recalls thinking. “I hope my bosses aren’t going to have a problem with that.”  …

And if that wasn’t enough:

At the urging of CEO Lee Scott, its truckers hauled $3 million of supplies to the ravaged zone, arriving days before the Federal Emergency Management Agency in many cases. The company also contributed $17 million in cash to relief efforts. Wal-Mart also demonstrated how efficient it can be. As of Sept. 16, all but 13 of the facilities that Katrina had shut down were up and running again. The company had located 97% of the employees displaced by the storm and offered them jobs at any Wal-Mart operation in the country.via CNN Money. (10/03/2005)

More recently:

Walmart and its warehouse store Sam’s Club managed to send 7,000 generators to its stores in the Northeast that were in the path of superstorm Sandy at the last minute, reports Shelly Banjo at the Wall Street Journal.

It was quite a feat, but how did they make it happen?

Thousands of truck drivers from Walmart’s supply chain have been scurrying around the Northeast to get things where they’re needed.

They’ve been constantly going between Walmart’s huge distribution centers and the big box stores.

“We kick into emergency mode,” one driver in the middle of a 14-hour shift tells the WSJ. “There’s loads of rain, store managers are anxious asking us when their next shipment of water is coming in … But we know it’s up to us to get water and other supplies to the stores and customers as fast as possible.”

Customers had emptied the shelves by Monday night, so employees from all over the region came into New Jersey to get the stores running by 7 AM the next morning.

And, like home improvement chains Home Depot and Lowe’s, Walmart has years of experience responding to disasters. It sets up charging stations and stocks up on the right items beforehand for the hundreds that come by in the storm’s immediate aftermath.

via Business Insider. (11/01/2012)

You see, this is what the Walmarts, the Home Depots, and Lowe’s do — LOGISTICS!!  (It’s a lot like a UPS commercial.)  FEMA does not do logistics; and frankly they’re terrible at it.  After everyone’s got some dry clothes and had something to eat, FEMA comes in and passes out checks.  That’s what FEMA’s good at.

Good luck to those eating from the dumpster.  Maybe if you were just a little more prepared self reliant you’d be at home under a blanket listening to the radio and having cup-o-soup and a roll instead.  Maybe you will learn from this experience that the government cannot take care of you the same way that you can take care of you.  Maybe.