***** At War With the Weather: Managing Large-Scale Risk in a New Era of Catastrophes. By Howard C. Kunreuther and Erwann O. Michel-Kerjan; published by The MIT Press, mitpress.mit.edu (Web); 448 pages; $55.
Debate has intensified in recent years about the natural disasters occurring around the globe. Many argue that the scope, frequency, and severity of disasters are increasing. Others maintain that they only appear so based on ubiquitous 24/7 media coverage. There is no debate, however, that recent catastrophes have resulted in loss of life, public confidence, and property, with huge financial and political implications.
At War with the Weather represents a tour de force in the analysis of how natural disasters—specifically hurricanes—are mitigated, insured against, and recovered from financially in the United States. The book examines four states: Florida, Texas, New York, and South Carolina, and large metropolitan areas within each state. Florida receives microscopic attention due to inherent hurricane and flood risk. Each state has its own insurance, regulatory, and political landscape, which adds to the complexity of the issue.
The text is guided by the principles that premiums should be based on risk but that uninsured or underinsured homeowners’ premiums should be funded in a way that makes them affordable. Based on these principles, the authors effectively address several fundamental issues, including how risk mitigation can be funded equitably and affordably, the roles key stakeholders play in implementing mitigation efforts, who should pay—and how much—for mitigation and actual losses, and how detailed analysis can inform public and private decision-making.
This text’s sheer amount of data and empirical analysis may appeal more to those deeply involved in the insurance industry. Yet emergency management, business continuity, and physical security professionals would likely find the “book end” sections very informative and even affirming. At War with the Weather is bound to be a seminal work that will be referenced by anyone seriously exploring the topic. Hopefully it does not take a catastrophe to bring the issue to the forefront once again.
Reviewer: Brian Strong, CPP, CBCP (Certified Business Continuity Professional), is a business continuity planning consultant with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. Brian also serves on the Association of Contingency Planners corporate board. He is a member of ASIS International.