FEMA Report Recommends New Mechanisms to Ward Against Natural Disasters

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is being pressed to adopt innovative methods to increase insurance penetration for floods and other natural disasters. In a draft report, FEMA’s National Advisory Council suggests that in order to increase financial preparedness for householders and local governments, novel financial models must be considered. The report notably mentions parametric triggers as a way to grow the insurance markets and protect against future disasters. Blockchain is also recommended as a means to create a land and property registry stored off-site in a secure platform.

What are parametric triggers, and how can they help?

Parametric insurance is a type of insurance that agrees—before the triggering event—to make a certain payment, instead of compensating for the pure loss. Parametric insurance pays out immediately when a certain threshold, such as water depth or wind speed, is reached; thus, expediting funding and reducing overall administrative costs.

What does the future hold for this new model?

“When added to the ubiquitous nature of smartphones and other levels of connectivity, the opportunity for expanding parametric insurance protection to individual households may merely be a matter of connecting the dots, for which FEMA is uniquely placed to lead this effort,” the Council’s report states.

Indeed, the Council believes that FEMA should “look towards a new model of insurance” in an age when natural disasters increasingly threaten both public and private interests.

The draft report also includes many suggestions to improve disaster preparedness, such as better building codes and code compliance, better preparedness for Indian tribes and rural communities, building resilient infrastructure and increasing funding for mitigation.

To close the insurance gap the report recommends:

  • Educating the public about the benefits of flood renter’s insurance and hidden hazards in real estate, rental properties and communities.
  • Stress testing state insurance guaranty funds to determine if they can withstand large-scale disasters and insurer insolvencies.
  • Creating more offerings for state and local governments to reduce rates of self-insurance of infrastructure.