Florida Sen. Nelson Unveils Measure to Reduce Hurricane Losses

July 27, 2004

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, who helped rebuild the state’s insurance market following Hurricane Andrew, has unveiled legislation aimed at reducing the loss of life and property caused by hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe storms.

Florida’s former insurance commissioner made the announcement recently during a tour of the Florida International University’s International Hurricane Research Center that he’s proposing a national program to help make homes and businesses more resistant to high winds from powerful storms.

Modeled after a successful government initiative created to lessen damages caused by earthquakes, Nelson’s legislation is similar to a proposal that already passed the U.S. House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin. His measure calls for a three-year federal program aimed at developing construction and design techniques to help reduce the loss of life and property resulting from such storms.

“In Florida we’re especially aware of the destruction from hurricanes and tornadoes,” Nelson said. “We need to do more to make homes and businesses everywhere more resistant to damaging winds.

“Lives, property and even our economy depend on our ability to better withstand these monster storms.”

Nelson’s legislation requires four federal agencies to work together on wind-damage research. They are the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The cost of the program would come out of money designated for the agencies’ budgets.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms and high winds were responsible for 111 fatalities last year and $3.6 billion in property damage.

As Florida’s insurance commissioner from 1995-2000, Nelson pushed for the development of state university-based computer models to measure and predict devastation caused by hurricanes. The International Hurricane Center at FIU is nearing completion of a $2 million dollar award granted under Nelson’s tenure to research economic impacts resulting from direct hits by hurricanes.

He also urged the creation of a national strategy to deal with major catastrophes so taxpayers don’t get stuck with sudden huge clean-up bills.

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