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Gulf Cost Conversations Workshop Recaps

The following notes reflect discussions held at breakout workshops during the Gulf Coast: Preparing for Extreme Weather Conference. These "Gulf Coast Conversations" were intended to foster dialogue between policy makers and experts in energy, the environment and weather. The spirited discussions are captured in the following Workshop Recaps.

Recap of Construction/Building by Julie Rochman, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)

  • Training for those involved in the enforcement of building codes must be increased to promote stepped up enforcement of modern building codes.
  • Everyone with a role in the building supply chain, including big box stores, building supply stores and others, needs more education about disaster resistance.
  • Public Buildings need to be brought to a higher standard if used for shelters and should also receive prioritized reconstruction if damaged or destroyed in a disaster.
  • Incentives are essential to encouraging disaster mitigation but they must be both positive and negative incentives. As such, insurance premium discounts should be provided for people or organizations who build right but penalties should be applied to those who don't build properly.
  • Alternative approaches to incentives or penalties need to be developed to incent low income and vulnerable populations to better prepare for disaster.
  • Banks should be encouraged to provide incentives to borrowers who take steps to mitigate the impact of natural disasters on their property. These incentives could take the form of sliding scale down payment on a house. Banks should also consider developing credit cards with special financing or cash back offers, or reduced mortgage rates, for borrowers who use funds to strengthen homes against disaster.
  • Greater effort is needed to engage more allies who can contribute to the solution of a more resilient nation. These include the banking industry, product manufacturers, and insurance agents.
  • Investments in green building should be coupled with physical improvements that also provide disaster mitigation for buildings.

Recap of Energy Policy & Security by Jeff Williams, Entergy

  • Gulf Coast leaders in the public and private sector need to better communicate the national significance of the unique energy infrastructure in the Gulf Coast from both an economic and energy security standpoint. Success on this front will encourage policy makers to be more open to making investments to harden this energy infrastructure.
  • Strategic investments in hardening the energy supply chain should be prioritized and funded as resources allow from both public and private sources. Examples include elevation of LA1, the key two lane road to Port Fushon that is at or close to sea level in several areas. Other examples include requiring gas stations to have back-up generators to ensure the availability of gasoline in a disaster impacted area.
  • Climate change should be mitigated with an expectation of longer term benefits.
  • Carbon pricing should take place based on market solutions with the revenue generated by carbon pricing used to help pay for mitigation.
  • Insurance should be used to cover risks associated with damage to energy infrastructure rather than requiring ratepayers to invest in the creation of large reserve funds for the restoration of damaged infrastructure.

Recap of Environmental Policy by Susan Kaderko, National Wildlife Foundation

  • Recently enacted Restore Act is a great opportunity to channel resources to Gulf Coast restoration initiatives including those at the local level.
  • Environmental resilience and recovery efforts supported by the Restore Act need to be linked to job creation with locals hired whenever possible to help implement the initiatives.
  • Carbon pricing needs to be pursued with the money generated by carbon pricing used to support wetlands and environmental restoration initiatives.
  • The potential for public private partnerships to support environmental protection and restoration must be pursued rather than relying solely on the federal government.
  • Creative and innovative solutions that use the existing FEMA framework to establish a community rating of NFIP insurance rates should be pursued whenever possible.
  • Sharing best practices from across the Gulf in terms of ongoing environmental restoration and protection initiatives is critical to spreading the best ideas.
  • The environmental community and advocates for environmental and wetlands restoration need to be linking their work with shorter term solutions we have heard about so people see this as a continuum.

Recap of Government Policy by Mike Cohen, RenaissanceRe Risk Sciences Foundation

  • Insurance rates for government-run programs such as NFIP, Citizens Insurance in Florida and Citizens Insurance in Louisiana should be market based. Market based pricing will ensure that sufficient resources are available to pay for disasters and also send important risk signals to consumers about the higher cost of building in vulnerable areas. In addition, private insurers should have the opportunity to sell insurance currently available only through government programs.
  • With market prices in place for government-run or private insurance programs, consideration needs to be given to helping low income residents living in vulnerable areas purchase insurance.
  • If the government implements programs to buy people out of homes built in areas prone to natural hazards, homeowners need to be compensated sufficiently to enable the purchase of another home. During this process, as the flood plain habitability drops and the value of land is driven up, care needs to be taken to avoid speculation that will worsen this market behavior.
  • Government should be speaking with one voice on programs that promote disaster mitigation. A task force that combines federal, state and local governments should be created to facilitate a uniform approach to mitigation policy and initiatives.
  • Government policy needs to be better coordinated so tax or land use policies that incentivize or disincentivize behavior do not work at cross purposes.
  • Expectations by state and local officials of federal bailouts following major disasters need to be scaled back in the face of diminished national resources and state and local officials should plan to shoulder a greater responsibility for disaster response and recovery.

Recap of Research and Science by Craig Tillman, WeatherPredict Consulting

  • Scientific research findings need to be better communicated so citizens can better appreciate the value of this science in guiding their decisions about disaster mitigation.
  • Inconsistencies in the adoption and enforcement of building codes across the country create confusion and undermine the credibility of building codes.
  • Scientists need to focus more on the applications of their scientific research when developing research initiatives.
  • Current policies discourage innovation, especially at the local level. There is a sense that there is an inflexible federal bureaucratic response that doesn't take into account local ability to create unique approaches to problems that work. This same concern exists around insensitivity to local lifestyles, values and demographics.
  • There needs to be a trusted source of information about science for citizens.
  • To help ensure that public policies are properly informed by science on an ongoing basis, a feedback loop should be developed so when science informs the development of policy, there is an opportunity for science to come back and make sure science continues to inform policy.
  • Physical, social and environmental scientists need to work more closely in integrating the definition of the problem they are collectively working to tackle.
  • We discussed policies that encourage bad behavior. There is a big concern about sensitivity. It's a good sign that we are beginning to think in an integrated manner.
  • There should be regional disaster response exercises with local communities designing those exercises without the federal government coming in and telling locals what to do.
  • There has been a failure to identify areas of consensus within the scientific and environmental community.
  • Large local employers should be more engaged in disaster mitigation efforts and interaction between federal, state and local governments could be improved.
  • More Peer to Peer models, such as city to city and homeowner to homeowner information sharing, are needed and a tool or venue is needed to facilitate this information sharing.
  • There are many communities that have no ability economically to change their situations through mitigation. Therefore, cost benefit analyses that are supplemented by the cost of inaction could bring home message of why resilience really matters.

Recap of Communicating and Educating Consumers by Leslie Chapman, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)

  • This session was on communicating and educating consumers. We identified the challenges first.
  • When developing disaster preparedness messaging that addresses insurance coverage, messaging must address basic information needs about insurance including what is covered and what is not covered.
  • When scientific findings are the basis of mitigation messaging, it is critical that the science is widely accepted to ensuring the credibility of the messaging. Only communicate about science that everyone agrees upon.
  • There is no single communications tool that works. Effective communication requires multiple strategies engaged simultaneously. Fear does not work as a motivation for encouraging disaster mitigation.
  • Need to populate consumers' minds during the good times when there is not a storm approaching so we can seed the audience for storm triggered messaging.