FEMA Reflects on Historic Year of Catastrophes

January 4, 2018

2017 will be a year remembered for the catastrophic disasters that resulted in 59 major disaster declarations, 16 emergency declarations and 62 Fire Management Assistance Grant declarations, across more than 35 states, tribes and territories, according to a recent Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) press release highlighting the year.

The disasters affected more than 25 million Americans – almost 8 percent of the U.S. population – according to the agency.

The 2017 hurricane season produced 17 named storms, 10 of which became hurricanes (six of those major hurricanes) – including the first two major hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) to hit the continental U.S. in 12 years.

In response to the hurricanes, 48 states and the District of Columbia assisted with response and recovery operations, in Texas, Florida and the U.S. territories in the Caribbean, through Emergency Management Assistance Compacts.

It was also a historic year for wildfires across the western United States, including two of the most devastating fires to ever impact California; the Tubbs fire in the northern counties, and the Thomas fire, which gained the distinction of becoming the largest wildfire in modern California history.

FEMA obligated more than $7.2 billion in disaster assistance, (Individual Assistance and Public Assistance) in 2017.

Nearly five million survivor households registered for the Individual Assistance program, which provides direct support to individuals and households in impacted areas. This year, FEMA received more registrations than for Hurricanes Rita, Wilma, Katrina and Sandy combined.

National Flood Insurance Program

The historic disasters of 2017 created one of the busiest years for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to date – the NFIP has paid out over $8 billion dollars in flood insurance claims.

The NFIP enhanced the flood insurance claims process for policyholders impacted by these hurricanes. Private insurance partners were directed to provide advance payments of up to $20,000 on flood claims, even before visits by an adjuster; and to waive the initial Proof of Loss requirement in many cases.

In an effort to make the NFIP more resilient, in 2017, FEMA entered, for the first time, into a reinsurance agreement with 25 reinsurance companies representing some of the largest insurance and reinsurance groups around the globe, transferring over $1 billion of the program’s risk to the private sector. This move allowed the program to recover $1.042 billion to pay NFIP claims when the losses of Hurricane Harvey exceeded $8 billion.

FEMA’s post-disaster Hazard Mitigation Assistance programs awarded 941 grants to 54 states, territories, tribes and districts totaling $627 million. These grants supported disaster recovery and resilience projects in property acquisition, elevation, flood control, safe room construction, and infrastructure protection to reduce the impacts of future disasters.

FEMA awarded over $2.3 billion in non-disaster grant awards, in funds used by state, local, tribal and territorial governments including fire departments and law enforcement agencies, along with ports, transit agencies and non-profit organizations. Grant awards were used to build and sustain the core capabilities needed to meet the National Preparedness Goal to prepare for the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk to the security of the nation.

Source: FEMA