Why Do Disasters Keep “Surprising” Us? Resilience Culture Would Aid Preparation
Jeff Dunsavage, Senior Research Analyst, Triple-I
Texas in recent days has become the latest poster child for government failure to prepare for catastrophe.
A Washington Post analysis places last week’s “rolling disaster” – with more than 14 million people in 160 counties experiencing power loss and water-service disruptions due to severe winter weather – alongside the U.S. federal government’s failure to anticipate and prepare for a global pandemic.
“Other such episodes of government caught by surprise are etched in people’s memory,” the article says, citing Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks as precedents. “It is rarely the case that these disasters strike without warning…. As many government officials have said, there is little incentive and almost no political reward for investing money to head off a crisis.”
Blame is being apportioned for Texas’s failure to mitigate what now has to be recognized as an inevitable confluence of extreme weather conditions with infrastructure vulnerabilities. It certainly seems as if investment in a handful of cold-proofing measures for the state’s independent, lightly regulated energy system might have prevented much of the suffering.
But what about other states suffering from service disruptions and their toll in human pain? And what about the next “unforeseen” catastrophe?
Instead of pointing fingers for actions not taken, it might be more productive to focus on developing a national and global culture of resilience; communicating the objective value of understanding, anticipating, and mitigating the impact of natural and man-made risks; and taking steps in advance to promote resilience in the aftermath of events that can’t be avoided.
This is what Triple-I, its members, and partners have been doing. Our Resilience Accelerator curates and shares data and insights from across the risk-management world with a focus on promoting resilience best practices. Our Joint Industry Forum annually brings together insurance and risk-management leaders and subject-matter experts to explain and update anyone with an interest in risk on the latest trends, developments, and solutions. We produce webinars, hold educational town halls, and regularly engage with the news media to help inform their coverage.
We also play an active role in helping to close the oft-mentioned “skills gap” in the insurance industry.
“The risks we all face—whether natural or man-made—are top of mind for younger generations,” Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan said recently. “We’re beginning to see these future leaders turn to insurance. They are beginning to understand that our 350 years of history, of managing risks of all kinds, is truly a catalyst for solutions. These solutions will result in a more resilient and protected world.”