Steve Linkous, chairman of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, brought a simple message to members of Congress at a Sept. 13 hearing: as we help communities ravaged by hurricanes Harvey and Irma recover, we can do more to the protect them and every other American from the next storm.
“We will always help victims get back on their feet, but I believe we should be doing more to keep them from becoming victims in the first place,” said Linkous, who is also president and CEO of Harford Mutual Insurance Company in Bel Air, Md. “The federal government perpetuates an endless cycle of destruction through a backward policy that incentivizes building and construction in vulnerable areas, spending the vast majority of its resources after the storms and not enough resources on encouraging resiliency before the storm. If Washington would reform its disaster spending habits we could build smarter, safer, and stronger communities across America and mitigate future devastation.”
In testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, Linkous painted a stark picture of the federal government’s passive response to the growing threat posed by natural disasters. Linkous noted that, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 40 percent to 60 percent of small businesses will not recover from a natural disaster and that counties struck by natural catastrophes experience greater out-migration, lower home prices, and higher poverty rates.
“As victims recover from the massive destruction left behind in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we should remember that the storms have not only destroyed lives and homes, but will have a devastating effect on the local economies for years to come,” Linkous said.
Despite this, Linkous said federal disaster policy continues to focus far more on reacting to disasters than proactively preparing communities for the next storm. “Those victims, and all Americans, deserve better,” he said. “We must find a way to incentivize and reward communities that invest in resiliency and that make smart mitigation efforts a priority before disaster strikes.”
To correct this imbalance, Linkous proposed a National Mitigation Investment Strategy that would give communities new tools to better protect themselves from disasters and encourage states to adopt and enforce more resilient construction standards.
“The evidence is overwhelming. Better land use, modern science applied to home construction, and basic mitigation efforts can dramatically reduce the devastation brought by these natural disasters,” Linkous said. “We should not treat states that put responsible mitigation measures in place the same as those that needlessly leave lives and homes vulnerable.”
Media and Federal Advocacy