WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- James Lee Witt and Admiral James M. Loy (USCG Ret.), co-chairs of ProtectingAmerica.org, the nation's leading coalition of first responders, businesses, insurers and homeowners dedicated to better preparing and protecting American families from the devastation of massive natural catastrophes, applauded the commitment of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee to address these issues. They also cautioned that decisive action needs to be taken quickly to protect the 6 out of 10 American families who currently reside in areas prone to natural catastrophes as well as taxpayers across America who have become the "payers of last resort" following catastrophic natural events.
"The joint hearings today are a critical first step in addressing one of this country's most pressing domestic needs," said James Lee Witt , who served as the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Clinton .
"American families continue to be exposed and vulnerable to massive natural catastrophes, and the Congress needs to act quickly to protect them, before the next catastrophe strikes," Witt said.
"Our biggest concern is for Katrina-like storms or massive earthquakes on the scale of the New Madrid earthquakes or the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. If these quakes struck today, they would wipe out vast regions of this country, not just vulnerable beachfront properties, but entire suburban and urban neighborhoods in some of America's largest and most important cities and counties," Admiral Loy said.
"Clearly, we need a comprehensive and integrated program that assures that American families can repair, rebuild and recover in the aftermath of a massive storm or earthquake," Loy said.
"That program needs to minimize the current taxpayer and policyholder subsidies that have become the ultimate financial backstop following truly massive events," he added.
"The essential goals of encouraging prevention and mitigation, improving education, enhancing first responder training and equipment, and augmenting the current private insurance and reinsurance markets will save lives, protect property, minimize damage and protect the taxpayers," Witt said.
"We are ready to work with the Congress to achieve every one of those important goals," Loy added.
ProtectingAmerica.org 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 ProtectingAmerica.org'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. ProtectingAmerica.org 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.