Security Magazine

Failure to Prepare for Storms Costs $1.15 Trillion

February 13, 2014

Failing to prepare for extreme weather events has cost the United States $1.15 trillion in economic losses from 1980 to 2010 and could cost another trillion in coming years.

"According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, future impacts of climate change project national economic losses on the order of $1.2 trillion through 2050," said David Heyman, DHS' assistant secretary for policy, testifying to a House panel.

"One only needs to read the newspapers to affirm that in the face of named storms and other extreme weather events, large numbers of assets, and the communities that are defined by these assets and which support them, are not sufficiently resilient," Lindene Patton, chief climate product officer at Zurich Insurance Group, said in testimony prepared in advance of the hearing.

Investments in weather preparation cost local governments significantly less than recovery, according to Paul Kirshen, a research professor at the University of New Hampshire. Preparedness strategies include flood proofing, flood evacuation plans, elevating buildings, purchasing insurance and improving drainage codes and floodplain standards.

According to a USA Today report, states that support storm preparation are suffering when federal government assists ill-prepared communities that decided against investing in storm protection. Patton cited a Business Continuity Institute study that found 40% of businesses affected by extended periods of severe weather never recovered or reopened.

In January, canceled and delayed flights disrupted the travel plans of roughly 30 million fliers and cost them more than $2.5 billion in lost work time and out-of-pocket costs for everything from meals to an extra night's hotel stay, according to masFlight,

Establishing infrastructure protection that can withstand natural disasters is the best bet to save money for the future. Two years ago, Heyman said, only 15 states had climate-protection plans. Now, 36 states have such plans. (www.USAToday.com).