To: Interested Parties
Date: November 2, 2012
RE: Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy is the latest reminder of a glaring omission from the federal government’s disaster policies: The absence of a national mitigation strategy.
The SmarterSafer coalition – a diverse group of taxpayer advocacy groups, environmental organizations, insurance interests and others – believes Congress should advance policies that chill the effect of natural disasters before they occur while working to stop incentivizing development in areas that routinely find themselves in the eye of major weather events.
Post-disaster recovery measures are vital and should be part of a comprehensive disaster policy but the best way to contain the wrath of Mother Nature is by putting initiatives in place that protect lives and property before disaster strikes.
Mitigation measures, such as hardening homes and businesses to wind damage, developing natural or manmade barriers to flooding, and better fireproofing, are estimated to have saved more than 200 lives between 1993 and 2003 and prevented 4,700 injuries over 50 years. Pre-disaster, preventative measures should be improved and included in any government disaster planning.
Spending on disaster mitigation is a cost effective way to limit the damage caused by hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural events. For every dollar spent on risk-reducing measures, $4 is saved in clean up and rebuilding costs. When communities and homes are stronger, there is less damage, disaster assistance, clean up, displacement and rebuilding after a storm.
It is less expensive to be prepared for disasters such as Sandy before they hit than it is to rebuild after them. It is time for Congress to promote a national disaster mitigation strategy to do this. it is also time for common sense reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to be implemented. A bill to reform NFIP was just signed into law, and quick implementation by FEMA can help ensure better protection for people in harm’s way as well as for taxpayers. The new reforms will ensure that rates are actuarial, encouraging mitigation and no longer masking risk; will streamline programs that help people mitigate their risks; and require FEMA to consider laying off some risk to the private sector to better protect U.S. taxpayers.
We should also be wary of ideas that sound like a good idea but could result in tens of billions added to the deficit. It’s important to implement solutions that reduce risk while also reducing long-term cost, not the other way around.
We believe Congress should focus on maximizing efforts to protect against disasters before they strike. In so doing, we can minimize their impact and do a better job of keeping both the human and financial costs of disasters in check.