SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., May 2, 2000 — As the 2000 hurricane season approaches, more than 50 percent of the U.S. coastal population is unprepared, according to Jerry D. Jarrell, past director, National Hurricane Center, at the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) 2000 PCS Catastrophe Conference, held here.
Jarrell said that the U.S. coastline, in particular, historically experiences the highest rate of mortality and property losses.
He cautioned that in coastal areas, evacuation can be a major problem — especially when highways are narrow and easily clogged. Major traffic jams can occur in storm evacuations, increasing the risk of accidents that could strand thousands of motorists on exposed highways leaving them more vulnerable to a storm, hurricane or tornado than if they'd stayed home.
Jarrell delivered his keynote remarks before more than 250 catastrophe claims managers and executives, reinsurers and emergency management professionals who attended ISO's conference, "A Whirlwind of Ideas for Catastrophe Planning."
Jarrell also observed that deaths from hurricanes in the United States are more frequently caused by drowning in inland floodwaters than from the wind or coastal flooding and storm surge.
Jarrell said, "The most important thing we can do is begin to control placing expensive property in vulnerable areas. Having the Federal Flood Insurance program no longer subsidizing building in these areas is a good step."
He praised efforts in improving building codes, citing State Farm's Disaster Resistant Demonstration Home in Deerfield Beach, Fla. and the "safe room" designed by Texas Tech University as examples.
"We have made remarkable strides in saving lives from hurricanes, but not property damage," said Jarrell. "We can expect to see property damage continue to escalate."
Michael P. Austin, director, Arizona Division of Emergency Management, discussed Project Impact, a federal initiative through FEMA to build disaster-resistant communities across America. The program emphasizes pre-disaster mitigation; what can be done before disaster strikes to alleviate or lessen the effects from a disaster; and the partnering of government, business and other organizations. Arizona and Minnesota have been selected as two pilot states for testing the Project, which is managed by each state.
Benefits are that each state:
Another speaker, Dr. Walter Hays, an engineering seismologist who is Senior Program Manager of the America Society of Civil Engineers, called on business, industry and insurers to join with governments throughout the world to take innovative steps to reduce local, regional and national vulnerabilities to earthquakes.
He proposed concerted efforts to marshal and use fiscal and human resources to build the regional and local capacity to live with earthquakes; build to withstand earthquakes; and learn from each earthquake disaster.
Hays stressed the importance of learning from each earthquake and using existing global monitoring technology such as satellites, networks and information systems. "Use each notable disaster as a laboratory to learn what happened and why," he said.
Conference host Property Claim Services (PCS™) is a unit of ISO that tracks and reports on catastrophes. PCS is a leading internationally recognized source of information on insured property loss resulting from U.S. catastrophes.
ISO is a leading source of information about property and liability risk. ISO provides statistical, actuarial, underwriting, and claims information and analyses; consulting and technical services; policy language; and information about specific locations for a broad spectrum of commercial and personal lines of insurance. In the United States and around the world, ISO serves more than 2,900 insurers and reinsurers, as well as agents, brokers, self-insureds, risk managers, insurance regulators, and other government agencies.