Catastrophe Experts Urge Congress to Adopt Comprehensive Catastrophe Program

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- America's leading organization of first responders, large and small businesses, insurers and private citizens applauds Congress for making natural catastrophe protection a priority, but warned that failing to enact a comprehensive program could create a false sense of security and result in dire consequences when the next massive earthquake or hurricane strikes.

"Congress, from the Speaker of the House, the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, to the newest freshmen members, has made a laudable commitment to improving the way American families are prepared and protected from catastrophe," said former Federal Emergency Management Agency director James Lee Witt , co-chairman of

"It is essential that the Leadership now seize upon this bipartisan commitment and enact a catastrophe program that includes mitigation, education, assistance to first responders and a privately-funded financial backstop so our families can repair, rebuild and recover from massive natural disasters," Witt said.

The House Financial Services Committee considered HR 3355, a measure that would create a lending facility for states that experience massive storms or earthquakes and would allow states or regions to aggregate risk and sell bonds to help finance coverage for a portion of the losses that would result from a catastrophic event.

"Massive natural catastrophes, by definition, are so devastating that they require more than a lending facility and bonding mechanism," said co-chair Admiral James M. Loy (USCG retired), the former commandant of the US Coast Guard and former deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

"Adequate protection from massive natural catastrophes requires before- the-fact mitigation, homeowner education and preparation, real time resources for first responders and the accumulation of substantial private funds to assure that affected families can repair, rebuild and recover after catastrophe strikes," Loy said.

"Congress has coalesced around the need to address the urgency for improvements to our catastrophe response programs. But, adopting legislation that is less than an integrated and comprehensive catastrophe program presents the possibility that we will be lulled into a false sense of security," Loy said.

About is a non-profit organization that is co-chaired by James Lee Witt , the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Admiral James M. Loy , former deputy secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security and former commandant of the US Coast Guard. The organization's membership includes the American Red Cross and other first responders, emergency management officials, disaster relief experts, insurers and others. Its members include more than 275 organizations and businesses, and several thousand individual members.

At the core of's mission is the establishment of a comprehensive, integrated national catastrophe management solution that will better prepare and protect American families, communities, consumers and the American economy from catastrophe. is working to increase public awareness and enhance consumer education, advocate for better coordination with local, state and federal mitigation and recovery efforts, and strengthen emergency response and financial mechanisms to rebuild after a major catastrophe.

The organization supports comprehensive federal legislation that would establish a privately financed national catastrophe fund that would serve as a backstop to state catastrophe funds. The funds' private deposits and the majority of its earnings could only be used to cover replacement and rebuilding costs following major catastrophic events. A portion of the funds' earnings would be dedicated to increase public and consumer education, strengthen first responders, and enhance building codes and their enforcement. was formed in 2005.