Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New York City Proposals For Change After Sandy

In the wake of Sandy, the New York City Council is considering sweeping changes to zoning laws, building codes, and other regulatory initiatives to prevent the disruption caused by this storm.  In the weeks and months ahead there will be hearings and proposed legislation to make changes to how buildings are built in NYC. 

As reported in Law360, Council members made several suggestions for new legislation to determine the feasibility of relocating power lines underground, adopt the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood elevation maps and strengthen flood-proofing requirements for buildings in vulnerable areas and health care facilities.

One suggested bill, proposed by Council Member Sara Gonzalez, would change the city's building code to match with those at the national and state levels when it comes to construction requirements meant to deter flooding.  Gonzalez's bill would raise elevation requirements for buildings in flood zones, requiring that their boilers and other critical equipment be kept above ground level. It would also create stricter construction standards for buildings in Zone A, the area closest to the waterfront where property is most vulnerable to flooding.  Other suggestions include locating power lines underground (this would help in the outlining boroughs where power lines were felled when trees came down) and requiring hospitals to have critical systems on floors above ground level.

Many of these suggestions mirror suggestions made in Florida and Louisiana and other Gulf states over the years.  By making changes like these, disruption can be lessened and insurable losses will be less.  It will be interesting to see how the debate goes and whether the will to make significant changes in light of Sandy stands firm in the face of what surely will be opposition to these changes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Personal Thoughts on Sandy and Its Aftermath

It's now been almost seven weeks since Superstorm Sandy.  I thought I would give some personal reflections on the storm and its aftermath and some of the preparedness and response lessons we can learn and are still learning.  I live on the south shore of Long Island.  As you know, virtually all coastal communities on Long Island, New Jersey, New York City, and Connecticut suffered catastrophic damage.  My brother lives in Long Beach.  Long Beach is a war zone.  Still.  Numerous houses were destroyed, there is no boardwalk, businesses are just starting to reopen, cars are still being towed out, and thousands still have no place to live.  My mother lived in Rockaway Beach (where we grew up).  Rockaway is also a war zone.  Still.  Everyone heard about the houses that burned down in Breezy Point.  Other houses burned down as well.  The boardwalk is destroyed.  Thousands have no home.  My mother is moving to East Meadow and will not be going back to Rockaway.  There are other communities that can all say the same thing across the south shore, Staten Island, and New Jersey.

Yet in mid-town Manhattan, where I work, everything is normal.  Frankly, it was normal by the time I was able to return to the City on the Thursday after Sandy hit.  But downtown, there are office and residential buildings that are still unoccupied because there is no power or phone or internet service, or no heat or electric.  And outside of the coastal areas and outside of the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut tri-state region, Sandy is an old story as the news cycle passes it by.

So what did we learn?  Some old lessons.  Building on sand spits is not a great idea.  Critical infrastructure has to be above the water line -- above the 1000-year storm water line.  Generators, heating systems, electrical panels, phone panels, computer hubs, all have to be out of the basement and sub-basement and be put on middle to upper floors.  Easier said than done.

Houses by the water have to either not have basements or be elevated so that the living quarters do not flood.  A friend of my brother and mine just finished his basement and first floor after Irene only to see everything totally destroyed by Sandy.  I am confident that throughout Long Beach and other communities others suffered the same fate.  Will insurers continue to "rebuild" in these coastal communities?  I had to change my insurance this year because my carrier of over 20 years dropped all policies on Long Island.  I am not on the water.  Insurers will start insisting on mitigation and prevention when rebuilding.

Dunes.  Dunes are cool.  People in Belle Harbor didn't want the dunes built up in front of their oceanfront views.  Those people no longer have houses as the nine to eleven foot storm surge swept over Rockaway and joined with Jamaica Bay.  Dunes and barrier islands help mitigate against storms and tidal surges.  So do groins and jetties.  In Rockaway there are rock jetties (really groins) in certain areas.  The beaches there are wide and the boardwalk was not as destroyed where the jetties were situated.  Where my mother lived, the boardwalk (for a short stretch) is somewhat intact, but literally two blocks west there is no boardwalk and the ocean flows under what was the boardwalk.  The rock jetties helped.  But there are environmental issues with jetties and groins. 

Generators.  I am contemplating installing an emergency generator hooked up to my gas line so I don't have to go through nine days of no power with dropping temperatures and standing on stupid gas lines because of panic.  Permanent generators are not cheap.  You have to create the proper hook-up to the electrical panel, properly place the generator and have it tied into the systems you want to run, and also run the gas line to feed the generator.  Is this an overreaction?  Not if Irene and Sandy are just the beginning of what is to come.

Backup and records.  We all do it.  We keep records and family memorabilia in the basement.  Not a good idea.  Electronic inventories of contents, important papers, etc. held in the cloud or offsite is the way to go.  But it's a lot of work.  I was lucky.  I only lost power for nine days.  I had no water and only minimal wind damage.  Five houses from me lost the entire first floor to water and a few houses from that had a major sewer back up.  The restaurants that I went to within a few weeks of Sandy in Freeport and East Rockaway were all destroyed.  Read the stories about how peoples lives are dumped in piles on the curbside.

Boats and shipping containers do not belong on railroad tracks.  But that's what happened on the Long Beach Branch of the Long Island Railroad.   Public transportation agencies have to make themselves less vulnerable to flooding.  We did not have our trains for almost 3 weeks.  The PATH in Hoboken may not come back until next year.  Trains and buses cannot be housed in lowland areas near water that might overflow with a surge.  Stations need to be build to withstand flooding and tracks and electrical sub-stations have to be raised or build to withstand water.

Cell phones.  How cellphone companies built cell towers with no generators or generators on the ground is shocking.  We had virtually no cell service for a week or more.  All the towers on the south shore were knocked out.  Redundancy and proper watertight back-up power is necessary for cell towers.

First responders and others.  Everyone should thank all the first responders, municipal workers, and volunteers who continue to work hard even today to take care of those who were devastated by Sandy.  Many of you saw the 121212 concert.  Folks from all the communities that are suffering were there.  The suffering continues unabated.  Go on Facebook and view the various pages set up by each community on their disaster recovery efforts.  This will be going on for months if not years in some areas.

Disaster preparation and response is no joke.  Take it seriously as an individual, in your business, and with your clients.  We hope this blog and the efforts of the American Bar Association's Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Task Force on Disaster Preparation & Response helps.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Coast Guard Joins Admiralty Committee on Call

Chris Nolan of Holland & Knight, who is the immediate past chair of the Admiralty Committee of the American Bar Association's Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section, asked to post the following announcement:

The TIPS Admiralty Committee is proud to inform you that Captain Gordon Loebl, US Coast Guard , Captain of the Port for NY/NJ, will be joining us for our committee's monthly call on Thursday, December 20 at 12:30 Eastern.  Chair Laurie Sands will introduce Captain Loebl to lead off the call and the Captain will chat about the USCG's disaster preparedness efforts -- actions during and after Superstorm Sandy.  It is valuable insight into the USCG's emergency actions and time permitting, Captain Loebl may take questions.

Because of TIPS' commitment to disaster preparedness issues, this meeting may be of great interest to members and readers of this Blog.  if you are interested in listening in, we of course welcome you.  The dial-in number is 866-646-6488 and the conference code is 1885350536. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Twitter Conversation -- The Underinsurance Gap

Lloyd's of London, one of the leading insurance markets in the world (for over 350 years) conducted a Twitter conversation today for one hour on the global insurance gap that exists.  Lloyd's recently published a study on the issue of the underinsurance gap that exists worldwide and some ideas on how to fix it.  Lloyd's has on its website an interesting piece on this that all businesses should review.

A lot of the Twitter conversation focused on catastrophes and the need to have mitigation and prevention processes in place to allow for insurance to be affordable and available.  You can check out the Twitter conversation by searching the hashtag #insurancegap.  Some of the concepts discussed were location of business assets in the supply chain, the lack of insurance for substantial parts of natural disasters, the value of insuring for catastrophic losses lowering the burden on taxpayers, and the need to invest in mitigation and preventative measures.  This was an interesting way to learn more about issues affecting disasters and disaster recovery.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Post-Sandy, In-House Counsel Plan Ahead for the Next Storm

Corporate Counsel

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, many businesses along the East Coast have been contending with a scattered workforce, telecommunication gaps, and property damage—to name but a few after-effects of the epic storm. Yet despite the increasingly frequent reminders from Mother Nature, planning ahead for catastrophe often gets short shrift from companies.

"It's just not the kind of thing people concentrate on," says David Bienvenu, who chairs the American Bar Association's committee on disaster response and preparedness.

As municipalities, companies, and individuals continue to act in recovery mode, what better time for in-house counsel to take stock of what went well pre- and post-Sandy—and what needs improvement before the next time.

Bienvenu, a partner at Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn in New Orleans, stresses that being able to locate employees and make sure they are safe is the number one priority.

"First of all, know how they can be found and how they can find you when things shut down," he says.
Which means that counsel need to think about the communication mechanisms your company has in place to maintain contact. After Hurricane Katrina for example, Bienvenu's law firm needed to purchase a fleet of new mobile phones to make up for lost cellular service, so that employees could communicate with one another. Later, the firm adopted a web-based message board to enable everyone to stay in touch should a similar event occur.

Disaster preparedness is critical to a lawyer's job. "We've got an obligation to secure our clients' property, our clients' information," says Bienvenu, "and not being prepared to do that can arguably expose a lawyer to liability."

To that end, Bienvenu's committee last year published, "Surviving a Disaster: A Lawyer's Guide to Disaster Planning" [PDF]—replete with a preparedness checklist, and tips on topics like how to develop a business continuity plan and how to protect vital records.

Earlier this month, the ABA also became the first nonprofit organization in the country to earn a disaster preparedness certification from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Bienvenu says the ABA hopes to share that process among members.

Now that Sandy has moved on, in-house lawyers can reflect on the continuity of legal services they've been able to provide to their clients, says Ernest Abbott, the former general counsel of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who now runs the firm FEMA Law Associates in Washington D.C.

For example, were you able to contact the members of your law department? Did you have sufficient remote access to manage the company's legal work? Abbott recommends that in-house attorneys "try and keep a list of the things they wish they had access to, that they didn't" after this latest storm hit, and then adjust their disaster plan accordingly.

As companies incur storm-related expenses, in-house counsel should also be tracking those receipts, says Williams Kastner partner Randy Aliment, immediate past chair of the ABA's Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section. Whether it's clean-up costs or even lawyer's bills, documenting expenses now will lay the groundwork for submitting claims to an insurance carrier later on.

"If they do that, they will maximize their recovery," Aliment says.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy Strikes the Mid-Atlantic, Preparedness Pays

Hurricane Sandy battered the mid-Atlantic on Monday, Tuesday and continues to impact a large swath of this country. Airports are closed, although Regan is now open to some traffic and perhaps JFK will open later this afternoon. Atlantic City and southern New Jersey took the brunt of the storm as it landed on shore yesterday at about 6pm eastern time. Winds topped 100mph in Manhattan, buckling a large crane at 157 West 57th Street in Manhattan. It was 1000 feet above the ground. Water gushed into the closed subway system, feet deep, causing the subway system as well as AMTRAK to remain closed today. Buses are expected to perhaps start running later today in Lower Manhattan. The death toll of 29 continues to rise. The HMS Bounty, a ship off the coast of North Carolina capsized and was sunk, as the Coast Guard worked hard to save almost all of the crew, but lost a deck hand and may have lost the captain. The Red Cross with the aid of local authorities is busy setting up shelters in towns and cities throughout the northeast hit by the storm. Electric companies, such as PG&E, from as far out in California, are sending crews in to help get power back online in the neighborhoods. President Obama has signed emergency declarations to enable federal funding to start flowing to the effected 8 states and the District of Columbia.  FEMA is hard at work.

The local police and emergency vehicles patrolled the streets of all impacted cities yesterday urging residents to take shelter before the storm and storm surge hit. The Holland and Brooklyn Battery tunnels closed yesterday at 3pm. After the storm struck, fires broke out in neighborhoods, destroying over 50 homes in Breezy Point, Queens. Falling debris continues to be a problem. Persons were injured in Point Pleasant, N.J. by falling signs. Over 50 feet of the boardwalk at Point Pleasant was destroyed.  Sand from the near-by beaches laid in large lumps blocks inland from the beach, large piles in the road. There is no doubt such storms are causing the erosion of our beaches. The authorities will work to remove and hopefully save that sand. West of the beach, snow continues to fall in West Virginia as the storm moved north and spreads west, at its impeccably slow snail’s pace. For the second time since 1985, the stock market remains closed for the second day. Governor Chris Christie had emptied the casinos in Atlantic City at 4pm Sunday, well ahead of the storm yesterday, giving warnings to evacuate to all over this past weekend. It was only the third time in the gaming industry’s 34 years in New Jersey that the casinos were closed. City wide curfews started taking effects last evening in all major cities. All of our federal, state and local public servants- police, fire, emergency personnel, plus all of the news channels weather crews, have been up helping all to get the information out to brave this storm, including Governors Cuomo, Christie, and Mayor Bloomberg An explosion of a power station in lower Manhattan last evening caused thousands to be without power. Storm surges came over the walls in Battery Park causing cars to slam into one another. Lights remained out last evening in lower Manhattan, and those who chose not to evacuate because they were on the border with Zone A in Manhattan, remained indoors. The NYU Lagone Medical Center needed to evacuate their patients due to the storm surge flooding into Manhattan. Bridges and public transit remain closed. The only bright note reported on the news is that some ski resorts in Western Virginia may open sooner than expected. The cleanup will continue for weeks. Insurance monies will be available to perhaps cover at least 50% of the damage.  

Throughout it all, our Statute of Liberty remains intact, battling the water surges pushing against her. With the power of FEMA, the state and local governments and with the help of non-profit organizations like the Red Cross and the private sector, we will get through this storm, clean up and move forward.  The storm, like many others, will travel north through Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and exit into Canada and eventually out to the North Atlantic. Along its path, the winds will continue to bring down branches and trees, but the rain and potential for widespread flooding is not expected to be as severe as in Irene. Looking back to Irene, a year ago, vs. what occurred yesterday, we can say we are better prepared for these disasters than we were a year ago, and certainly much better prepared than we were in responding to Katrina. The disaster preparedness and response is not only quicker, more efficient and streamlined, but the message is being heeded by the public at large, who are listening, preparing and evacuating when so instructed. We are faster at mobilizing the resources needed to respond, the weather warnings are coming earlier and are being taken seriously by local and state governments disaster respond teams, now in place. And the public is helping, by themselves planning, preparing and following the instructions of our tireless public servants.  The state of affairs today is that we are accepting these natural disasters as becoming part of our daily lives.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Preparing for Sandy

With Hurricane Sandy getting ready to bear down on the East Coast of the United States, communities up and down the coast are beginning their disaster preparations.  The links below on this page will take you to disaster preparation organizations' websites that will contain helpful information on preparing for a disaster.  Remember go bags, have enough water, batteries, etc.  For businesses, have your emergency call numbers and lists ready for Monday and Tuesday.  Off site facilities for computer operations should be readied.

The idea of disaster preparation is to be prepared and hopefully not have to use the preparation materials and techniques.  Special preparation is needed in this case because of the confluence of three weather systems at the same time making for the potential of a "perfect storm."  Charge up your cell phones and other communication devices on Sunday night.  Have your emergency radio ready to listen Monday morning on status of transportation and power.

The ABA's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Task Force on Disaster Preparedness and Response wishes everyone a safe harbor in this upcoming storm. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Disasters and Climate Change

Much has been written about climate change and its real or potential effects on the weather, risk management issues for companies, insurance, oceanfront development, and myriad other issues.  The world's largest reinsurers has just released a study stating that climate change has been the cause of the uptick in natural disasters in North America.  The study, "Severe weather in North America," looked at the period 1980 to 2011 through a comprehensive database of loss data for natural catastrophes.  The study shows a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America. "Anthropogenic climate change is believed to contribute to this trend, though it influences various perils in different ways."

So if climate change is driving natural disasters in North America, what are we to do in terms of preparedness?  The study suggests the following:  "All stakeholders should collaborate and close ranks to support improved adaptation. In addition, climate change mitigation measures should be supported to limit global warming in the long term to a still manageable level."  Thus, adaptation is necessary to address the increased frequency of weather-related disasters and mitigation measures must be put into effect.  Insurers and policyholders, as well as governments, need to work together to address these issues.  Join the American Bar Association's Section on Tort Trial & Insurance Practice as its Task Force on Disaster Preparedness and Response continues to address all forms of disasters and presses the discussion with all stakeholders to make sure that we are all better prepared for disasters.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Disaster Planning Can Cut Costs

At a World Back conference last week, policymakers discussed how the cost of disaster recovery can be reduced by planning.  "We need a culture of prevention," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, as the Bank said insurers estimated the economic cost of disasters in the last three decades had topped $3.5 trillion.  "No country can fully insulate itself from disaster risk, but every country can reduce its vulnerability. Better planning can help reduce damage and loss of life from disasters, and prevention can be far less costly than disaster relief and response."

Some of the ideas about planning included  making sure that infrastructure and education in emerging economies should be designed to minimize the human and financial cost of natural disasters.  Having schools serve as disaster shelters by stocking blankets, water, and other supplies worked for come communities in Japan.  Children were drilled regularly on disasters and knew to go up to the roof of the school to avoid the tsunami.

All communities are vulnerable to disaster and what this World Bank discussion is about getting all communities to buy into a culture of disaster preparation.  What are your communities doing to be prepared?

The American Bar Association's Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section is continuing its Task Force on Disaster Preparation and Response for the 2012-13 bar year with plans to publish a book based on its 2012 programming successes, maintain this blog (which you are all welcome to comment upon), and host a series of webinars based on disaster preparedness and response.  We can all join the discussion about how to be better prepared for disasters.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The State of Catastrophes and Catastrophe Reinsurance

The insurance industry not too long ago developed an efficient way to address insured disasters through the creation of the Property Catastrophe market.  In other words, direct insurers who pay the insured losses resulting from catastrophes and disasters are able to mitigate their loss payments through the purchase of specialized reinsurance meant to cover extraordinary property losses.  This is the Property Cat market.

The Property Cat market grew when the wind blew hard and knocked down the surplus of the direct property insurers in the Gulf Coast and Eastern United States.  Bermuda became the home of many of these Property Cat reinsurers and are often known by their year of incorporation or their "class year."

Recently, Aon Benfield, a world wide reinsurance broker, issued a study on the Property Cat marketplace.  You can find the study here.  The study provides a very positive review of the Property Cat market as high quality credit protection for direct insurers.  Here's one quote from the opening of the paper entitled "Credit Risk of Property Catastrophe Reinsurers."

"Since 2000 the reinsurance industry has paid more than USD150 billion in catastrophe claims.  Over the same time horizon only eight reinsurers have gone insolvent due to
catastrophe losses, and those eight represented less than 1 percent of global reinsurer capital. Further, the insolvent companies have settled more than 99 percent of their claims. As a result realized credit losses have been less than 10 basis points, a rate consistent with ‘AA’ corporate bond default rates."

The paper describes in great detail the credit value of the Property Cat market and compares the market over various years.  How is the Property Cat market doing in the face of Hurricane Isaac?  Time will tell, but early reports indicate that the insured losses will not be a problem for the insurance industry even with its estimated $2 billion price tag.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

India's Blackout Disaster

The developing disaster in India caused by the massive power grid failure is an unfortunate example of a disaster caused by a combination of natural and man made acts.  As this disaster unfolds before us, power companies throughout the world, along with businesses and governments are watching closely.  The lessons learned from the India power grid disaster will hopefully prevent or at least mitigate similar power grid implosions elsewhere. 

Preparing for a catastrophic power failure requires significant planning.  Whether caused by negligence, nature, or terrorists, businesses and governments must put in place the necessary contingency and backup plans to allow them to survive the disaster.  It may be backup generators, off site alternative work spaces, or old world work plans that help recover from a power grid disaster. 

The Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section of the American Bar Association has presented multiple programs throughout the 2011-2012 year on all aspects of disaster preparation and response.  Its Task Force on Disaster Preparation and Response will present two fabulous programs on disasters caused by acts of terrorism on August 3, 2012 at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago at 8:30 am and 2:00 pm at the CLE Center at the Hyatt.  How to plan ahead and how to cope with a power grid failure caused by a terrorist act may be discussed.  For more information, click here

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Disasters Caused By Acts of Terrorism Program on August 3

The American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Task Force on Disaster Preparedness and Response is hosting two fabulous programs on August 3 as part of its year-long Disaster Initiative.  These two programs feature world class experts on addressing terrorism from a practical, global, insurance, political, and direct perspective.  We look forward to seeing you at the programs:

ABA Annual Meeting Programs: Disasters Caused by Acts of Terrorism
Friday, August 3, 2012
Hyatt Regency Hotel Chicago

8:30am - 10:00am
Understanding and Preparing for Disasters Caused By Terrorist Acts

Larry P. Schiffer, Patton Boggs LLP, New York, NY

Shari F. Natovitz, Vice President and Risk Manager, Silverstein Properties, Inc./World Trade Center Properties
Robert P. Hartwig, Ph.D., CPCU, President, Insurance Information Institute
Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute

An Insider’s View of Preparing for and Responding to Disasters Caused by Acts of Terrorism

Kenneth M. Roberts, Schiff Hardin LLP, Chicago, IL

Jordan Strauss, Director of Preparedness and Response, National Security Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Garry F. McCarthy, Superintendent, Chicago Police Department, Responsible for recent NATO Summit Security
Jon Monken, Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Dialogue on Responsibility, Art, Celebrity, Nuclear Weapons, and Making Movies with UN Messenger of Peace Michael Douglas and GSI President Jonathan Granoff

TIPS Chair Randy Aliment provided us with this information to share on the Blog.

At the 2012 Spring Meeting of the American Bar Association Section of International Law held in April in New York City, Mr. Douglas and Mr. Granoff held an entertaining, substantive, and inspiring wide ranging dialogue in front of an audience of several hundred of the world's top lawyers. The audience included senior  and present UN officials, such as Hans Correll (  who was Under Secretary General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel to the UN from 1994-2004, and Ben Ferenz (  a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials who  has led efforts in the creation of the  International Criminal Court.
The dialogue was exceptionally well received and is part of a series of such dialogues. You might also enjoy these dialogues as well:
With Ted Sorensen and Robert McNamara
With Sir Bob Geldof and remarks by Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire

Jonathan Granoff is also a featured speaker at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago on August 3, 2012, where the ABA's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Task Force on Disaster Preparedness and Response will put on two important programs on Disasters Caused by Terrorist Acts.  For more information and to register, please click here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Early Tropical Storms for 2012

Simultaneous tropical storms in the Atlantic and Pacific preceded the start of hurricane season for 2012.  What does this all mean for potential disasters and disaster preparedness and response?  News reports are saying that these storms are mild (if you are in them I suspect you have a different view) and that the 2012 season will be normal.  Does that make us complacient, especially in the Northeast?  What can we do to be prepared for the hurricane season and to recover if our community receives a direct hit?

Some of the links below (bottom left) will help you find resources to prepare and recover from natural and other disasters.  The Disaster Initiative programming put on during 2011-12 by the ABA's Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section (see the bottom right side) provides great insight into preparing for hurricanes and pointers for responding and recovering from natural and other disasters. 

The bottom line is have a plan, be prepared, and listen to what the forecasters and local authorities are telling you.  Have a safe hurricane season.  For more information on the TIPS Disaster Intitiative and programming, please click here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Counter Terrorism - Preparing for Acts of Domestic and Foreign Terrorism

Sal Lifrieri
I had the pleasure of interviewing Sal Lifrieri, former Director of Security and Intelligence Operations for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's Office of Emergency Management and current principal at Protective Countermeasures & Consulting, Inc., for a podcast produced by the American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Law Section's Disaster Preparation and Response Initiative in conjunction with Thompson Reuter's WestLegalEd Center.  This podcast will be available via the WestLegalEd Center and the TIPS website in the near future.  Sal outlined measures businesses, individuals, and local governments can take to be better prepared for terrorist attacks.  Interestingly, Sal was most concerned about home grown terrorists and the potential for explosive devices being used to cause major disruption.  While he did not discount acts of foreign terrorism, including cyber attacks (which recently have been in the news again), he thought that vigilance against domestic terrorism was the biggest issue we face.  Sal is concerned about how the US has become a bit complacent since September 11th and still lacks the preparation necessary to withstand a major attack.  Sal counsels businesses and municipalities to think out of the box and go through the process of creating a substantive disaster recovery plan addressing the disruptions that might arise in the wake of an act of terrorism.  I hope all of you will have a chance to listen to this podcast when it is posted.  The TIPS DPRI podcasts are made available by TIPS on its website for free as part of its year-long Disaster Preparedness and Response Initiative.  For a list of the existing podcasts, please click here.  Please join us on August 3 in Chicago for the ABA's Annual Meeting where TIPS will put on two fabulous programs on Disasters Caused by Acts of Terrorism.  For more information about the TIPS Disaster Initiative, please click here

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Free CLE Program on Katrina

The American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, in partnership with West LegalEdcenter, is offering ABA members a complimentary program, “When the Levees Broke: Lessons Learned From Judicial and Governmental Response to Hurricane Katrina,” available April 5 – May 5.  The program was presented during the 2012 ABA Midyear Meeting and was produced by the TIPS Task Force on Disaster Preparedness and Response. The program focuses on the challenges that the judiciary as well as federal, state and local governments faced in the Katrina disaster, and the response to those challenges. Those affected by the disaster relay their experiences and offer lessons learned. Speakers include Kathleen Strickland of Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley; Jennifer Kilpatrick of Degal, Blanchard & Nash; Judge Madeleine Landrieu of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, Orleans Parish, La.; and Judge Karen Wells Roby of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  While this is a free program, CLE credit can be obtained for $50. For more information, including how to register and view the program, click here.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Must See Katrina Program - Offered Free for a Short While

Sometimes a program comes along that is exceptional, something that all ABA members should see. This program is one of those exceptional programs. It makes you feel the tragedy that happened to one of our greatest cities, one of the treasures of this country, like no other program on Katrina has done to date.

Because this is a MUST SEE program, the TIPS Task Force on Disaster Preparedness and Response, in partnership with West LegalEdcenter, part of Thomson Reuters, is offering complimentary access to this program to all ABA members for 30 days. The fact that TIPS is making this extraordinary effort to make this program available to all members, means this is a program you won't want to miss! We hope you find it to be a valuable experience like those who saw this program presented live at the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans on February 3rd. Additionally, our hope is that airing this program will increase disaster preparedness efforts in your local communities.

When the Levees Broke: Lessons Learned From Judicial and Governmental Response to Hurricane Katrina, discusses the unique challenges that Federal, state and local governments, and members of the judiciary encounter when faced with a disaster. This program features Kathleen Strickland of Ropers, Majeski, Kohn and Bentley, Jennifer Kilpatrick of Degan, Blanchard & Nash, Honorable Madeleine Landrieu and Honorable Karen Wells Roby, as they discuss their experience with these issues in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and what they've learned in the process.

If you have previously registered with West LegalEdcenter, you can simply click on the link below, sign in and enroll in the free program. If you have not previously registered, you can create a free profile, sign in, and then enroll in the free program. It's that easy!

View the Complimentary Program
*Complimentary program does not include CLE Credit

For CLE Credit, View the Program for $50

Kathleen N. Strickland
Chair, TIPS Task Force on Disaster Preparedness & Response

Randy J. Aliment
Chair, ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Disaster Preparation and Building Codes - Florida is Number One

According to the linked article, Florida's building codes are rated the best for hurricane protection.  Building codes and land use ordinances are critical in the preparation for natural disasters like hurricanes.  The videos of houses being swept out to sea off of spits on barrier islands are dramatic, but also demonstrate why building on lands likely to flood makes little sense.  Building codes, land use codes, and other similar measures protect against unnecessary loss of property (and life) in the face of natural disasters.  No different than earthquake building codes, hurricane building codes help ensure that the roof won't blow off and the buildings won't collapse during a hurricane.  The article points out how some other Gulf states received very poor scores for their building codes.  If we are going to prevent excessive and unnecessary damage from hurricanes and windstorms, building codes need to be updated and land use codes need to be implemented that address these risks.  Congratulations to Florida for learning this valuable lesson.  Now its up to the other Gulf states and other shoreline communities to get on board with preventing unnecessary damages caused by natural disasters.

To learn more about disasters caused by nature and how to prepare and respond to them, please visit the American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Disaster Initiative page and join us on May 17, 2012, in Charleston, SC, for a great program on Disasters Caused by Acts of Nature.  For more information, click here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Insurance Industry Concern About Disasters in 2012

The job of the insurance industry is to insure the risk of loss of its policyholders.  So far, with the early storms in 2012, the insurance industry is worried that 2012 will turn into another 2011 or worse.  There have been many articles in the press discussing the affects of disasters on the insurance industry and its insureds.  Here are a couple.  The Columbus Dispatch featured this recent article.  Are the predictions right?  What do you predict 2012 will be?  Will we have more natural disasters than 2011?  As the London Telegraph reports, the Lloyd's insurance marketplace had significant losses from disasters in 2011.  What can you do to be prepared for disaster?  

For more information about disaster preparedness and response, please click here.  Please join us for the American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Spring Leadership Meeting in Charleston, SC on May 17 for a great program on disasters caused by acts of nature.  For more information about this program, please click here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

ABA 2012 Workers’ Compensation Midwinter Seminar and Conference

The American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Workers’ Compensation and Employers’ Liability Committee, along with the ABA Labor and Employment Law Section, recently presented a captivating seminar in San Antonio, TX, which included a panel on Natural Disasters and Their Aftermath. I was fortunate enough to moderate this panel, which included Bruce Blythe, Chairman of Crisis Management International, David Smith, Divisional Vice President- Risk Management for Family Dollar Stores, Inc. and Sidney Degan, III, Managing Partner of Degan, Blanchard & Nash, New Orleans, LA.

Mr. Blythe, a crisis management expert, addressed traumatic stress injuries created by natural disasters and how to best minimize the extent of these injuries and expedite the employee’s return to work. Mr. Smith spoke about the award winning disaster response plan that he helped Family Dollar implement in 2003. The focus of Mr. Smith’s presentation was having an adequate response plan in place before the natural disaster or traumatic event occurs and “Doing the Right Thing.” Mr. Degan addressed how his law firm and the Louisiana court system dealt with Hurricane Katrina and the handling of ongoing litigation. One of the most interesting aspects to me was how the Louisiana and Federal court systems protected its attorney, plaintiffs and defendants by declaring the days following the disaster “holidays.” This tolled any deadlines, such as the statute of limitations, during the time that the attorneys or pro se litigants were misplaced due to the damage.

I hope you are able to join us at the TIPS Spring meeting in Charleston, SC, May 16-20, 2012. The TIPS Disaster Initiative Program will take place on May 17, 2012.

Click here to find out more about the TIPS Spring meeting.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One Year Anniversary of Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Disaster

The debris has been cleaned up, but Japan is struggling with the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and reactor failure that occurred last March.  Concerns about the future of nuclear energy and distrust of government are among the long term impacts of the disaster are described in this article in The Atlantic.      At the Spring Meeting of the ABA's Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section on May 17 in Charleston, SC, the TIPS Disaster Initiative will have two panels of experts talking preparing for and responding to natural disasters.  Click here for more information.

Should Disaster Claims Processing Be Different?

Bests Week's March 12, 2012 issue has a small news article on page 9 discussing the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' Property and Casualty Insurance Committee voting at its Spring meeting to hold a public hearing on whether the NAIC should create a model guideline for the processing of claims following a natural disaster.  Consumer representatives have called for special guidelines for disaster claims following natural disasters.  They advocate that Cat claims are very different than typical claims and require special handling and guidelines.  Issues like the appropriate duration for consumers to recover full replacement cost of personal and real property, streamlined inventory requirements in the event of a total loss, proper training in the calculation of replacement values, the availability of policy terms and conditions (often lost by the consumer after a natural disaster), and access to claims-related documents are expected to be discussed at the public hearing.

This is an interesting issue and an important one because one-off or routine claims are not under the same pressure as hundreds or thousands of claims resulting from a natural disaster.  Are special guidelines needed?  Any comments from those reading this blog?

At the Spring Meeting of the ABA's Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section on May 17 in Charleston, SC, the TIPS Disaster Initiative will have two panels of experts talking about the preparation for and the response to natural disasters.  Among those speaking are the Mayors of Birmingham, Alabama and Charleston, South Carolina, who will talk about how they have dealt with natural disasters, and Ed Collins, the National Director for, who will speak from a disaster preparedness and response national perspective and may have some insights from the insurer perspective from his day job at Allstate.  The question of how claims arising from natural disasters are handled will likely be a topic. 

For more information about the TIPS Disaster Initiative and the Spring Meeting in Charleston, please click here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Early March Tornadoes Create Huge Insured Loss Risk

In this linked article, the author discusses the March tornadoes and their devastating affect on the insurance marketplace.  Equcat is stating that this storm season is already running 30% ahead of 2011.  On the insurance front, property rates are rising and excess capacity is being absorbed by the losses.  Carriers are reassessing their geographic diversity.  What all this means is that disaster preparedness is critical and disaster response must be organized and ready.  Was the Midwest and South prepared?  Are the local and regional governments responding well?  Is the federal government responding well?  What will happen when the next round of storms hit?

The latest storms and how local and regional governments prepare for and respond to those storms will be a topic discussed on May 17 at the ABA's Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Spring Meeting in Charleston, SC.  For information on how to attend this program featuring national and local elected officials and disaster preparedness experts, please click here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

How Prepared Are We For Cyber Attacks and Other Disasters?

The February 2012 Washington State Bar News had this great article covering cyber attacks and other disasters.  The article focused on the programming put on by the ABA's Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section in Seattle in October 2011 as part of TIPS' Disaster Preparedness and Response Intitative.  The article goes indepth into cyber terrorism and other disasters and quotes from the speakers at the TIPS program.  For those interested in this program, it is available at the West LegalEd Center for viewing and CLE credit.   Just click here.  You can access other completed TIPS Disaster Initiative programs at the LegalEd Center as well.  For more information about upcoming programs, including the programs on disasters caused by acts of nature coming up on May 17, 2012 in Charleston, SC, please click here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Possible Settlement in BP Litigation

Bloomberg Business Week is reporting that British Petroleum and lawyers for businesses and individuals suing over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill are near a $14 billion accord to be funded with money set aside for out-of-court settlements.  BP would close its $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility and shift the remaining $14 billion to plaintiffs hurt by the disaster, the largest offshore spill in U.S. history, according to people involved in the ongoing negotiations. Such a deal wouldn’t include fines by the federal government that could reach $17.6 billion, lawsuits by state governments or claims between BP and partner companies involved in the disaster.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tornadoes Anticipated Again This Year

The linked article from AccuWeather anticipates above normal tornadoes again this year, especially for the Southeastern United States, which was devastated by these storms last year.  How do individuals, companies, and municipalities prepare for another year of disasters caused by tornadoes and other natural disasters?  What lessons were learned from previous storms and how can we be better prepared for this season?

These questions and more will be the subject of the American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Spring Meeting in Charleston, SC on May 17, 2012.  As part of TIPS year-long initiative on Disaster Preparedness and Response, TIPS has put together a significant program with national and regional leaders to discuss preparing for and responding to disasters caused by nature.  The Disaster Initiative program will take place on May 17 at the Charleston Place Hotel starting at 2:00 p.m. 

The first of two panels will discuss disasters caused by nature and will focus on the recovery efforts and lessons learned from events like the tornadoes that hit Alabama and other parts of the Southeast.  Tentatively titled "I Survived the Big One – Lessons Learned From Living Through Natural Disasters," this panel, moderated by James Myrick of Womble Carlyle, features the following prominent speakers: The Honorable Beverly E. Perdue, Governor of North Carolina (invited); The Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Mayor, City of Charleston, South Carolina, and The Honorable William A. Bell, Sr., Mayor, Birmingham, Alabama.

The second panel, which starts at 3:30 p.m., will address disaster preparedness from a national perspective.  Tentatively titled "Preparing for the Worst – Is the Nation Prepared for Natural Disasters?" this panel, moderated by TIPS Disaster Task Force Chair Kathleen Strickland of Ropers Majeski, features the following important national figures:  the Honorable Bernice B. Donald, Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; Edward T. Collins, National Director,; James R (Bob) Dailey, Ph.D, P.E., F.ASCE, Senior Managing Engineer, Exponent, Inc.; and Russ Paulsen, Executive Director, Community Preparedness and Resilience Services, American Red Cross.

On Friday, May 18, additional CLE programs on disaster preparedness continue from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.  If you are involved in disaster preparedness and response, you don't want to miss these fabulous programs.  For more information about TIPS and its Disaster Initiative and to register for the TIPS Spring Meeting, click here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Disaster Initiative Writing Competition Results in Winning Papers

The American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Writing Competition as part of its Disaster Preparedness and Response Initiative has resulted so far in two fabulous winning papers from the Fall meeting in Seattle and the Mid-year meeting in New Orleans.  You can read the winning law student papers on the TIPS Disaster Initiative Page here and on this blog page here.  The first winning student paper from the Fall meeting in Seattle is by Melissa Muir and is entitled : How the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals Has Changed The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Appeals Program: The Little Executive Board That Can.  The second winning student paper from the Mid-year meeting in New Orleans is by  Artis G. Ulmer, III and is entitled:
The Infliction of Intentional Torts in Preparation for or in Response to a Natural Disaster.  The competition continues in the Spring from North Carolina and in the Summer from Chicago where more students will vie for the winning submission on Disaster Preparedness and Response.  For more information on the writing competition, please click here.  For more information on TIPS Disaster Initiative and the upcoming programs, please click here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

ABA Mid-year Meeting Disaster Panels Were Great

The TIPS Disaster Panels held today in New Orleans were great. The first panel moderated by Allan Kanner took us through how courts litigants, and insurers view and address mass tort disasters. Professor McGovern, Judge Rosenthal, and Ted Henke were all thoughtful and informative on a wide range of issues concerning managing mass tort disasters. The second panel moderated by Jennifer Kilpatrick gave us an intimate look at how a disaster like Katrina affects the courts, the judges, and access to justice. Judges Robley and Landrieu shared their very personal experiences and the lessons learned by both the state and federal courts that apply to any judicial system after a disaster.   Read the article about this panel on the ABA Journal's website by clicking here.

If you follow TIPS on Twitter @abatips or hashtag #dpri you were able to follow live comments on these terrific panels. Please join TIPS in May in Charleston, NC and in August in Chicago for the final two Disaster Initiative live programs.  Click here for more information on TIPS Disaster Initiative.

Monday, January 23, 2012

2011 Disasters Impact Insurance Markets

The Insurance Information Institute has released a presentation on how the near-record breaking disasters in 2011 will impact the property/casualty insurance industry.  Containing detailed, updated numbers for global and U.S. catastrophe losses and the most up-to-date economic information and underwriting and investment performance data, the presentation focuses on four key aspects of the property/casualty insurance market: underwriting; surplus/capital/capacity; reinsurance market conditions; and renewed pricing discipline. The report notes that there were a record $380 billion in global economic losses globally in 2011 and $105 billion in insured losses.  The presentation is made, as usual, by Robert Hartwig, President of the Insurance Information Institute, and was presented recently to the Insurance Federation of New York.  Dr. Hartwig will be one of the speakers at the American Bar Association's Section on Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice's Disaster Preparedness and Response program on Disasters Caused by Terrorist Acts, which will take place in Chicago, on August 3, 2012.  For more information about this program and TIPS Disaster Initiative, please click here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

FEMA Head Urges Use of Private Sector

Yesterday, at the International Disaster Conference & Expo in New Orleans, FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate, told the audience that the government needs to stop thinking it can handle all aspects of a disaster and make sure the private sector is included in disaster planning and response.  His remarks are summarized in the linked article, click here.

Administrator Fugate's public/private partnership idea fits neatly with what the ABA's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section has been doing with its Disaster Preparedness and Response Initiative throughout the 2011-2012 year.  Coincidentally, TIPS' next Disaster Initiative program will be in New Orleans on February 3, with two expert panels on disasters caused by acts of negligence.  Click here for details.

The public/private partnership for addressing disasters makes perfect sense.  Many business groups have disaster initiatives (see our links below on the bottom of this Blog page), as do many professional associations like the ABA.  FEMA and the government are skilled in certain aspects of disaster preparedness and response, while the private sector resources are skilled in areas where the government may not have the resources.  Protocols need to be established at the local, regional, state, and national level for both public and private cooperation in responding to disasters.

What are some of your ideas for doing this?  Who has seen this work and how did it work?  Let's have your comments.

For more information about the TIPS Disaster Initiative and to attend our programs or access our materials, please click here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

TIPS Disaster Preparedness Public Service Project in New Orleans

Disasters can strike at any time and it is important to be prepared in advance.  One way to be prepared in advance is to use a checklist to organize important papers and information and to prepare a "go bag" of essential items necessary to survive a disaster.  There are lots of examples of checklists at the websites of the organizations listed on this Blog Page at the bottom left. 

As part of the American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Disaster Initiative activities at the ABA Mid-year Meeting in New Orleans, TIPS is presenting a series of programs focusing on Disasters Caused by Acts of Negligence on February 3, 2012 from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Additionally, a Community Service Project will be held on February 4, 2012, at Bonart Playground in the Ninth Ward where a Dog Vaccination Clinic will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  The Clinic will offer free microchips, low cost vaccinations, free spay/neuter vouchers, and the opportunity for attendees to speak with trainers who will be on-site.  The Dog Vaccination Clinic is sponsored by the TIPS Animal Law Committee and co-sponsored by the TIPS Public Service Committee, Best Friends Animal Society and the Sula Foundation.
 As part of the TIPS Disaster Initiative, a folder with a Disaster Preparedness Checklist for families and pet owners will be distributed at the Dog Vaccination Clinic.  The folder will include a Flash Drive for families and pet owners to use to save the important documents described on the checklist in the event of a disaster.  the Flash Drive has been generously donated by TIPS Sponsor UnitedLex.

It is too late to prepare for a disaster after it strikes, you need to be prepared ahead of time. Like the earthquake kits in California, TIPS hopes the disaster preparedness checklists and Flash Drive will be helpful to the families and pet owners of the Ninth Ward. We encourage those TIPS members attending the ABA's Mid-year Meeting in New Orleans to signup as a volunteer and visit the Ninth Ward on Saturday, February 4th.  Transportation will be provided.  As a volunteer you have a choice of two hour time slots starting at 11:00 a.m.  Sign up at the TIPS registration desk at the Mid-year Meeting. You are also encouraged to attend the CLE programs on Friday, February 3rd.

For more information about TIPS' Disaster Initiative, click here. For more information about this TIPS Public Service Project, click here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Global Disasters the New Normal?

The press is reporting on a UK think tank paper about global disasters and how to prepare for them.  Chatham House has issued a lengthy paper (Preparing for High Impact Events) that comes with an executive summary and podcast.  The study found that with the rash of disasters, the global economy could withstand a major disaster (natural or man-made) for only about a week.  Sobering news.

Clearly disaster preparedness and response is critical to maintaining economies, businesses, communities, and families faced with disaster.  Preparedness helps ready for and mitigate against a disaster.  Response provides the resources necessary to deal with the disaster and mitigate the finanicial and physical damage to property and life.  The ABA's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section has been focused on Disaster Preparedness and Response during this year with teleconferences, podcasts, and live programs aimed and providing information, awareness, and vision to disasters of all kinds.  Program information from the teleconferences is available at West LegalCenter.  Podcasts are available at TIPS' Disaster Initiative Page and on the podcast page of this blog.  Program materials from live conferences will also become available, but the upcoming conferences in New Orleans in February, Charleston, SC in May, and Chicago in August are great ways for TIPS members and others interested in disaster preparedness and response to learn and expand the skill sets necessary to combat what the Chatham House folks predict is the new normal.

For more information, please click here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Interview with Kenneth Feinberg

In an interview with Catherine Dunn of Corporate Counsel, Kenneth Feinberg discusses his views on special masters and tort reform.  As a special master of some of the largest funds established post-disaster, Feinberg expects the criticism that goes with the job. There is a learning curve for each post-disaster fund.  But the statistics evidence the success of these funds and of Feinberg’s efforts in administering these funds. It is the percentage of participation in these funds rather than in the tort/litigation system that illustrate the success of these funds. In a year’s time, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility established by BP after the oil spill, has processed 97% of more than 1 million claims.  In the September 11th fund, 97% of the death claims were resolved through the fund rather than through litigation.

As he discussed in the September Teleconferences hosted by the American Bar Association’s Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section, Feinberg does not believe there should be a special court dedicated to handling mass disasters.  Nor should the September 11th fund be replicated, asking why there should be a carve-out for handling the claims of only a few people who have been victims of life’s misfortunes.  He is not an advocate of tort reform, stating that the system works daily in every court in every city, village and town in this country and it works pretty well.

For more on this interesting topic and the upcoming TIPS Disaster Initiative programs at the ABA's Mid-Year Meeting in New Orleans focusing on Disasters Caused by Negligence, including both Katrina and the BP disaster, please visit TIPS Disaster Initiative page and the Mid-Year Program page.  You can listen to a podcast about the Mid-Year Disaster Initiative program and the DP disaster fund for the Deepwater Horizon disaster by clicking hereYou can watch and listen to Feinberg’s discussion of the September 11th Victim’s compensation fund on West LegalEd Center’s archive of the September 11th Disaster Initiative Telecasts.