Nation’s Leading Catastrophe Experts to Congress: Keep the Promise and Make Catastrophe Backstop Top Priority When Congress Reconvenes

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The nation’s leading coalition of first responders, catastrophe experts and businesses concerned with how America is prepared and protected from catastrophe marked the end of the 2008 hurricane season and today called upon congress to make the creation of a comprehensive national catastrophe program a top priority when the congress reconvenes in January.

“The president-elect and congressional leaders have agreed that enacting comprehensive catastrophe protections like those included in the Homeowners’ Defense Act, are essential for protecting the 6-in-10 American families who live in areas that are prone to massive natural events like hurricanes and earthquakes. The time to act is now, before the next catastrophe strikes,” said Admiral James M. Loy, co-chair of

“The nation has just survived another devastating hurricane season and based on all projected climate conditions we are headed for future hurricane seasons that feature both increased fury and frequency of storms. The consequences of another major storm making landfall anywhere from New England to Texas could be catastrophic,” he said.

“The potential damages from a replay of any of the great American earthquakes that rocked the Midwest or on the west coast have never been higher,” he added

“The need for action has never been more pressing and the likelihood of making progress has never been higher,” said James Lee Witt, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and co-chair of

The House of Representatives earlier in the current session of Congress passed the Homeowners’ Defense Act of 2007 (HR 3355) by a bipartisan vote of 258-155. President-elect Obama wrote an opinion piece on the measure for the St. Petersburg Times on September 7, 2008 and said, “when a catastrophe strikes, we all look out for one another. That’s why I am proud to add my name to this bill, and that’s why I’ll sign it into law as president.”

“The stars are aligned to make comprehensive catastrophe protection a reality,” Witt added. is a nationwide coalition of more than 300 organizations and businesses, as well as 20,000 individual members, who have been calling for the creation of state and national catastrophe backstop programs that would utilize deposits from private insurers to finance catastrophe preparation and protection programs that would:

  • Increase public education, mitigation efforts and take other steps before a catastrophe strikes to minimize the loss of life and property;
  • Enhance first responder training and equipment to improve effectiveness and coordination when catastrophe strikes, and
  • Assure that American families have the resources to rebuild, repair and recover in the aftermath of a massive natural event by creating a financial backstop that would eliminate taxpayer bailouts and cross subsidies by standing behind the traditional insurance industry in the case of a truly major catastrophe.

First Responder members of include the American Red Cross, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Troopers Coalition.

“No one knows better than first responders the pressing need for preparation and training long before catastrophe strikes. A comprehensive program to protect American families from the devastation of natural catastrophes can only be successful if it includes a focus on planning, preparation and mitigation,” said Davy Jones, President of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association.

America’s exposure to the threat of a catastrophic storm or earthquake is substantial.

“Hurricane history continually shouts: ‘Build on a flood or tidal plain, abuse the land, be lax about building construction or safety codes, or about ensuring sound infrastructure–there will be consequences!’ We’ve done those things in good measure. And never before have so many people and so much property been at risk,” said Rick Schwartz, the author of Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States.

“Earthquakes are not a phenomenon limited to America’s western states. Among the largest earthquakes to strike the lower 48 states were the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811 and 1812. If those earthquakes struck again today major metropolitan areas throughout the Midwest would face significant destruction,” said Roger J. Arango, Central US Earthquake Consortium.

A replay of a massive earthquake or a sweeping hurricane could cause damages well into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Modelers project that if the San Francisco earthquake were to occur today, damages would reach $400 billion. A replay of the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane that ripped through Long Island, New York and through much of New England would cause similar damages.

“The economic devastation that would follow such losses is incomprehensible. Clearly, the creation of pre-funded state and national catastrophe backstops are essential to mitigate the effect that mega-losses would have on the state, regional and national economies,” Witt said.

“Our families and our economy are depending on congress and the new president to enact a comprehensive catastrophe protection program. We hope they will answer to call,” Loy said.

About was formed in 2005 and is a non-profit organization consisting of emergency management officials, first responders, disaster relief experts, insurers and others. Its members include the American Red Cross, more than 300 other organizations and businesses and more than 20,000 individuals from across the nation.

At the core of’s mission is the establishment of a comprehensive, integrated national catastrophe management solution that will better prepare and protect American families, communities, consumers and the American economy from catastrophe. Among its efforts to support this mission, is working to increase public awareness and consumer education; advocate for better coordination with local, state and federal mitigation and recovery efforts, and strengthen emergency response and financial mechanisms to rebuild after a major catastrophe.

In addition to its education and public awareness programs, the organization is supporting, federal legislation that would establish a privately financed national catastrophe fund to serve as a backstop to state catastrophe funds. The funds’ private deposits and the majority of the earnings could only be used to cover replacement and rebuilding costs following major catastrophic events. A portion of the earnings could be used to increase public and consumer education, strengthen first responders, enhance building codes and improve their enforcement.

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