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Will We Let Waste and Red Tape Interfere With Effective Disaster Response?

Facing the massive, widespread destruction left behind by the recent string of epic storms, America faces what will almost certainly be the most expensive storm recovery and rebuilding effort in history. Historic water, winds, and scope come with historic bills. The only question is whether taxpayers will get the results our investment warrants.

Once the recovery cash starts flying, not all is spent wisely. Perhaps even more than usual, recovery spending is prone to waste, fraud, abuse, and just plain old bad ideas. After Katrina, American taxpayers shelled out nearly a billion dollars to help homeowners fortify their homes for the next storm. But some $700 million of that hard-earned taxpayer money just disappeared. When Katrina survivors were given $2,000.00 debit cards, some 900,000 were awarded to fake or duplicate social security numbers. And that’s just a couple of fun fraud and waste anecdotes. Add in plain old inefficiency, cronyism, and lost opportunity costs/economic activity, and we’re talking even more digits.

Addressing Harvey’s historic floods, Irma’s expansive scope, and Maria’s thorough viciousness – all at once – will be even more demanding than any one storm we have endured. A ‘typical’ Oklahoma tornado can cause months of residential construction delays in Texas. The ‘typical’ Tennessee flood may postpone a commercial plant construction in Georgia. Disaster response takes all that can go wrong under typical circumstances and dials it up with shorter timelines, scarcer resources, more challenging conditions, added uncertainty, and even more basic needs waiting to be met.

Right now, the most pressing need for many is a roof over their head. Families, businesses, aid providers, governments, and even the rescuers themselves all require shelter. The traditional answer has been the infamous FEMA trailer, with its ugly history of problems. But there’s not nearly enough manufactured housing to meet existing needs. In Texas alone, 792,000 people have applied for housing assistance. As one lawmaker said, “a lot of people are going to make a lot of money in manufactured housing.” Does that mean the money will line the pockets of the politically-connected?

Even small improvements in disaster response can quickly add up to saved suffering, saved lives, and saved money. That very instinct – saving military lives and money – birthed Castle. Saved resources can be used to meet other needs. The more quickly displaced survivors are transitioned into stable housing, the faster they can get back to work rebuilding their community. Delay means additional suffering and lost opportunity costs.

Castle Enclosures can be built and installed more quickly and less expensively than the 20th century-style manufactured housing used for emergency housing in disaster response. Castle’s proprietary design makes them energy efficient, fire resistant, flood proof, sound-deadening, earthquake-resistant, and ballistics-resistant. Their flexibility makes them a superior reusable option for just about any setting or conditions.

Reports say that government will pay about $140,000 for every trailer it uses in response to Harvey. Castle Enclosures offer a safer, more responsible choice, starting at around $45,000.00 per unit (exact price, of course, will depend on a variety of factors). Castle won’t be knocked off course by a storm, as our propriety concrete design isn’t dependent on a complicated, fragile supply chain. Castle Enclosures save the taxpayer in every column of the emergency housing problem: initial direct costs, maintenance costs, lost opportunity costs, and the safety and suffering of displaced survivors.

But what about waste, fraud, abuse, cronyism, and red tape? Can we battle that storm well enough to meet our suffering neighbors’ needs? Efficient disaster response will require agility and 21st century solutions.

Whether you are a fan of regulation or not, we have probably all witnessed this unhelpful kind of red tape. For example, sometimes governments have minimum tenure requirements before an organization is even allowed to bid on a project. But, like Castle Enclosures, the latest technologies and most innovative solutions often arrive via the new kid on the block.

Never has the United States faced so much naturally-caused devastation and had so much rebuilding ahead of her. Recovery in the Gulf and Caribbean will take many years. We have a moral obligation to learn from our experiences and invest wisely in our recovery. Castle Enclosures is thrilled to be a part of the next chapter of disaster response.


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