Travelers today announced it is introducing a wind credit for fortified homes in Texas that meet established standards designed to resist the impacts of tropical storm and hurricane winds. Travelers currently offers similar credits in Alabama and Mississippi.
“Homes built to meet these stringent standards are better able to withstand severe weather, saving lives and reducing property losses, and we want to promote and raise awareness of these smarter building practices,” said Greg Toczydlowski, President of Personal Insurance for Travelers. “We hope this initiative and meaningful wind credit will encourage homeowners, builders and building officials to adopt these disaster resistant standards.”
“I appreciate Travelers expanding this initiative in Texas,” said Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman of the Texas Department of Insurance. “We know that mitigation works to reduce loss of life and property. And now, coastal homeowners in Texas can also save money on their insurance costs. This is a win-win for consumers and their communities.”
The announcement was made at the hurricane preparedness symposium sponsored by the Travelers Institute, the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety (IBHS) and Ceres, who joined to convene business, government and community leaders to identify solutions for protecting and insuring the increasingly densely populated regions along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
“We’ve seen first-hand the significant economic and social implications of coastal storms in the U.S., and Travelers continues to take a leadership role in helping prepare businesses and homeowners for the upcoming hurricane season,” said Joan Woodward, Travelers Executive Vice President of Public Policy and President of the Travelers Institute. “2011 was a record year for severe weather, and the importance of disaster preparedness, response and recovery, as well as sound policy, is more apparent than ever. We applaud the tremendous efforts the City of New York engaged in as they prepared for Hurricane Irene in 2011.”
Jim McConnell, Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Data in the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), keynoted the event and discussed best practices that the city employed in preparing for Hurricane Irene. “OEM works every day to develop plans and prepare for emergencies, as well as to educate the public about preparedness, coordinate emergency response, and collect and disseminate emergency information. We believe our response in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene provides best practices for response efforts both in New York and across the country,” he said.
At the symposium, two panels addressed the current challenges regarding the availability and affordability of coastal wind insurance for homeowners as well as disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
IBHS’s Debra Ballen moderated the first panel, which included:
Ken Katz, Risk Control, Travelers
Nancy Rodrigues, Build Smart Virginia
Giovanni Taylor-Peace, Global Disaster Response Team, Habitat for Humanity International
Dave Treutel, Smart Home America
“Preparing for hurricanes means much more than just having bottled water and flashlights on hand,” said Debra Ballen, IBHS General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Public Policy. “While these items are important, we need to look at the bigger picture. Building stronger, safer communities is the most effective way to ensure that residents and businesses are prepared for and can recover from hurricanes. We have already seen two named storms before this year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season officially begins June 1. These early storms demonstrate how critical preparedness is, and IBHS is pleased to join with Travelers and Ceres today during National Hurricane Preparedness Week to discuss proven strategies that can save lives and reduce devastating property damage.”
Cynthia McHale from Ceres moderated the second panel, which included:
Robert Hartwig, Insurance Information Institute
Eleanor Kitzman, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Insurance
Eric M. Nelson, Catastrophe Management, Travelers
Stephen Weinstein, RenaissanceRe
“We know that 2011 was a devastating year for extreme weather events in the United States,” said Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres. “These events triggered a record 99 federal disaster declarations and were marked by their severity and frequency, and we are proud to partner with Travelers to identify solutions to these issues.”
The Travelers Institute released a report with key findings from its two year symposium series on the coastal insurance crisis. The report makes several recommendations, many of which reflect the principles within the Travelers Coastal Wind Zone Plan, the company’s proposal for a private, market-based solution without federal subsidies. They include:
A stable and consistent regulatory environment, with a uniform set of rules applied to named storm wind coverage for coastal zones from Texas to Maine.
Transparency in calculating insurance premiums, with risk-based, actuarially sound rates using approved standards and wind risk models, and a rating calculation mechanism to be applied if models and actual experience become misaligned over time.
Federal reinsurance mechanism for extreme events (such as hurricanes causing losses several times greater than those arising out of Hurricane Katrina), with the reinsurance made available to insurers at cost so there would be no taxpayer subsidy, and the savings passed directly to customers.
Encouraging stronger homes through federal guidelines for appropriate building codes and land use planning, with incentives for state and local adoption, plus enhanced construction technology and meaningful premium credits for customers who make their homes less vulnerable to wind damage.