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MIT professor offers new perspective on emergency preparedness

Yossi Sheffi's new book, The Resilient Enterprise, examines the way corporations survive disasters. Sheffi says Wal-Mart was far more prepared and had a quicker response time to Hurricane Katrina than some government agencies. He says groups like the Federal Emergency Management Agency could learn a thing or two from similar companies.

Something that we have found in the book when researching it is that there is something in the DNA of resilient companies that allows them to react quickly and get back to business quickly that does not seem to exist in other companies that are not that good.

Sheffi admits there are differences between public institutions and private corporations. But he says during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina each wants to protect its constituents. Sheffi says many government agencies were not prepared to do their jobs.

So when the real necessity came to operate efficiently and quick those organizations were not set to do it. So, yes, you can take the corporate model in the sense of building good processes, building the right culture. All of these are as applicable to government organizations as they are to private organizations.

Sheffi says if the government were to acquire the corporate model, government workers must understand why they do their jobs. Part of the problem he says is that too many people work for the money and not a calling.