Seat at the Table

By Andrea Wells | April 15, 2012

Disaster response is at the core of the claims professionals’ mission and purpose. It is in times of disaster when claims adjusters can mean the most to policyholders.

As we approach the one year anniversary of one of the most devastating tornado disasters of all time- the EF-5 (Enhanced Fujita Scale) tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011 — the industry and communities nationwide should think about how to better prepare and respond for the next catastrophe.

Part of that preparation is ensuring that homeowners and tenants have coverage in place with adequate limits to restore their lives after a natural catastrophe. Yet, despite the critical benefit that insurance provides in a post-disaster world, many people will continue to forgo purchasing needed coverages.

This is where U.S. governmental emergency management teams must step in. But while the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) makes news headlines for responding — or even not responding — to natural catastrophes, the private sector is often overlooked.

As we look to 2012 we need to work together as a team.

FEMA’s top leader says the story of the private sector’s role in disaster response is one that’s often untold.

“When we look at the disasters last year, the unreported story was how the private sector was a part of the recovery team,” said Craig Fugate, FEMA’s top administrator.

The private sector should be engaged early and often in preparing for and responding to natural disasters like hurricanes, Fugate said. That means teamwork between the federal government and the private industry.

“We need to give the private sector a seat at the table,” Fugate told participants at the recent National Hurricane Conference in Orlando. “The sooner we can get private businesses — and government-backed infrastructure — up and running, the sooner communities will recover.”

Governmental emergency management teams should work inclusively with all partners to meet the needs of the whole community when responding to and recovering from disasters, he said.

Fugate discussed the work that federal, state, local and tribal governments and voluntary organizations do on a regular basis in preparation each year. He also focused his remarks on the importance of engaging the private sector early and often.

“Last year proved that the effects of hurricanes can impact areas beyond just the coast,” Fugate said. “As we look to 2012 we need to work together as a team, with all our partners, the private sector and the public to ensure that communities are prepared no matter where tropical storms impact.”

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