While stories have been popping up progressively in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav and Ike, one interesting development has been the efforts by lawmakers and citizens for preparedness should an unpredictable catastrophe befall their hometown. States along the Eastern Seaboard have been taking action instituting insurance measures and local disaster drills should an unexpected and devastating hurricane knock on their doorstep.
New Jersey is one of those states, taking it as far as to create a fund that would help make sure homeowners would be protected in the event of a cataclysmic storm:
Today, the Legislature will begin hearings on how to best protect New Jersey homeowners from the devastation of major hurricanes or other natural disasters. This is an important and timely step; the Atlantic hurricane season begins in less than a month and New Jersey is both exposed and vulnerable to those storms.
The Senate Commerce Committee will hear testimony on the “New Jersey Consumer Catastrophe Preparedness and Protection Act” (S2089), sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester). It would use private insurer dollars to create a fund that would stand behind the traditional insurance market to cover the most extreme losses from truly massive hurricanes — not the routine storms that sweep across beachfront properties, but those whose devastation would stretch far beyond our coastal communities and well into many of our urban centers.
Because the fund would be a pubic-private partnership, private insurer dollars that are deposited into the fund, as well as the fund’s investment income, would be exempt from state and federal taxes. Mandatory annual deposits combined with tax-free investment income would help the fund to grow year after year.
A portion of the investment income, but not the principal deposits, would by law be annually appropriated for preparation and planning so that damages from storms could be minimized. A portion would be used to enhance first-responder training and equipment so that lives could be better protected when the unthinkable does happen. A portion would also be dedicated to improve consumer and homeowner education so that residents can be informed and prepared in the event of a massive natural event.
It’s good to see that the lessons of the past will not be forgotten so easily, even in states that did not face such hardships directly.