First Responders, Businesses Tell Congress U.S. Needs Disaster Plan

A coalition of first responders, emergency management experts, businesses and insurers told Congress that America needs a comprehensive public-private, federal-state partnership to protect against a massive hurricane or earthquake.

“Catastrophe protection and preparation is a nationwide priority that must be addressed immediately, before the next catastrophe strikes,” according to Robert W. Porter, executive director of

He told lawmakers that eight out of the 11 most costly U.S. natural catastrophes have occurred since 2001 and that 20 states, including Hawaii and every state that borders the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, face the threat of hurricanes every year.

His group’s disaster plan calls for involvement of state and federal governments along with the private sector.

“This national challenge that can only be addressed by establishing catastrophe funds in high risk states, funded by mandatory contributions from private insurers, that will stand as backstops to the private insurance market and whose investment income can be dedicated to supporting mitigation, education and first responder programs,” continued Porter.

The state high risk funds need a federal backstop, he added.

“Adequately addressing this national priority and making homeowners insurance available and affordable in high risk states will require those states to be able to turn to a self-financed national backstop for the once- in-a-century catastrophes that will strike the nation,” Porter told the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity.

Porter told the subcommittee members that risk experts suggest that 57 percent of the American public resides in areas that are prone to earthquakes, hurricanes or other disasters.

The largest earthquake to ever rock the continental U.S. emanated from New Madrid, Missouri in 1811 and affected an area that stretched from Mississippi to Michigan, from Pennsylvania to Nebraska, he said.

Also, he testified, since 1900, 11 hurricanes have made direct hits on New England; six of them on the New York coastline. The “Long Island Express,” a hurricane that in 1938 made landfall in Long Island and raced through Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, killed 700 people and left 63,000 people homeless. If the same storm struck today, damages would exceed $100 billion, according to risk modelers. is a non-profit organization that reports having more than 200 members including the American Red Cross and other emergency responders, emergency management officials, police organizations. Its members include Allstate and State Farm Insurance, and large and small businesses.