Speaking at a conference in St. Louis, Dr. J. David Rogers, the Hasselman Chair of Geological Engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, told the Federal Reserve Bank’s Subcommittee on Business Continuity that the United States is being bankrupted by disasters.
In his remarks, Rogers pointed to increased hurricane, flood, and earthquake activity over the past 20 years due to natural cycles. This situation, compounded by the recession, has made the high cost of government aid during natural disasters all the more severe.
“The National Flood Insurance Program was bankrupted by Katrina and Rita,” said Rogers. “We are under water in debt from hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.” By his calculations, more federal money has been spent on natural disasters in the last 20 years than in all the prior history of such assistance.
Saying that more than half the American population lives within 50 miles of the ocean, Rogers said he believes that people who live close to the water should have a greater responsibility for replenishing the Naitonal Flood Insurance Program. At the same time, however, he said the whole nation needs to do a better job of disaster planning.
“Communities need to have plans, better infrastructures and disaster training,” said Rogers, citing earthquakes, mud slides, and volcanoes along the West Coast; and tornadoes, ice storms, and the New Madrid Fault in the Midwest.
Unfortunately, people in this country are more geared toward responding to a major disaster than preparing for one, said Rogers, a course of action that has proved unbelievably costly in recent years.