Prevention and Mitigation
Living on known faults without earthquake insurance, building in a flood plain without flood insurance, allowing brush to grow unchecked in areas prone to wildfire and building homes in coastal areas that cannot withstand hurricane force winds are irresponsible actions, which should not be subsidized by taxpayers when the inevitable occurs.
Stronger building codes, which are vigorously enforced, and sensible land use policies are needed to reduce the impact of catastrophes on consumers and taxpayers. One study estimated the damage from Hurricane Andrew would have been $8.1 billion less if the building code now in Miami-Dade had been in effect in 1992.
Improved Recovery Processes
Fresh water, ice, electricity, plywood and food are things we take for granted – until a catastrophe strikes. Progress has been made in recent years, but more needs to be done to get help, including getting licensed contractors, into disaster areas quickly. Equally important, state and local officials must crack down on unlicensed contractors and others who attempt to victimize disaster victims a second time.
Resources should be dedicated to a public education program designed to inform consumers about how to protect themselves and their property as well as tips to help them recover quickly after a disaster strikes. Banks, insurers, social service agencies and emergency preparedness officials are all in a position to educate the public and help save lives and property.
A commission of state, local and federal officials, together with representatives from insurers, banks, builders, medical providers and others should be appointed to study ways in which America might better prepare for catastrophic events. We should learn both from our mistakes and our accomplishments to alleviate suffering and economic damage from future catastrophes.