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Press Office

IMMEDIATE, Tuesday May 22, 2001


New Initiative to Accelerate Disaster Assessments and Expedite Payments

Governor George E. Pataki today announced the launch of a new initiative designed to enhance New York State’s disaster response and recovery efforts, including accelerating the payment of disaster victims’ insurance claims, by expediting the exchange of information with the insurance industry before, during and after disasters and emergencies.

"Whether it’s an ice storm or a hurricane, New Yorkers know they can count on our continuing commitment to do everything that we can to help our friends and neighbors recover from unexpected, severe weather disasters and emergencies," Governor Pataki said. "By providing instant exchange of critical emergency information, this new initiative will help expedite damage assessments, speed emergency response efforts and ensure faster recovery payments."

The State Insurance Department has developed an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) which will be linked via a multitude of communications channels to the New York State Emergency Operations Center in Albany when the Governor activates State agencies in preparation for forecasted weather events such as floods, hurricanes, coastal storms and snow storms.

The new command center will be staffed -- in New York City or Albany -- by agency personnel and representatives of the 10 largest homeowner and commercial property underwriters in the geographical area affected.

Videoconferencing and remote satellite video links from the field will connect the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO), the Insurance Department’s command center and the Office of the Director of State Operations within the Governor’s Office.

New York Insurance Superintendent Gregory V. Serio said, "In keeping with Governor Pataki’s mandate to anticipate and protect New York residents from potential natural disasters and other emergencies, the insurance community will now be able to provide earlier evaluations of damages arising from such events and accelerate the claims of disaster victims."

New York State Emergency Management Office Director Edward F. Jacoby Jr. said, "Over the past few years, the Empire State has been rocked by floods, blizzards, tornadoes, and coastal storms. Yet each time the State’s response was swift and effective. This initiative under Governor Pataki’s leadership provides additional resources and information that are so vital as the State responds to New Yorkers in their time of need."

Insurance carriers, their agents and the regulatory agencies have a wealth of information that can provide critical guidance for the strategic commitment and deployment of public and private assets before a community experiences nature’s fury. Under this initiative, insurance industry staff, claims representatives and adjusters will be provided access to an affected scene more rapidly through the use of special temporary adjuster licenses provided by the Insurance Department and recognized by law enforcement and emergency management offices. Insurers will also have the processes and tools to share their information with the State.

The Insurance Department’s command center and other disaster response initiatives are the result of the work of the New York State Insurance Disaster Coalition, a catastrophe management team made up of state and private organizations designed to anticipate and respond to potential problems caused by weather events and other state emergencies. In addition to the Insurance Department and SEMO, coalition members include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), and individual insurance companies, trade industry, and voluntary agency representatives.

Doug Raucy, IBHS Senior Vice President and COO said, "New York home and business owners need more than just insurance funds to recover from a natural disaster. They also need lifeline utilities to be restored as soon as possible, and to keep their businesses open or to reopen them as quickly as possible. Now, with the efforts of the IEOC and Coalition partners, New York citizens can rest assured that, if they are ever affected by natural disaster, the service and support that they receive will be more timely and effective."

The coalition developed the New York State Insurance Disaster Response Plan, which establishes points of contact with insurance companies during a disaster, a communications network, and requires insurers to submit disaster contingency plans to the State Insurance Department.

As a part of the disaster response initiative, the Insurance Department is also launching an Emergency Disaster Information section on the department’s Internet website. Consumers and insurers will find important up-to-date information on catastrophe management, including mitigation techniques, the most recent weather information, assessments, emergency contact lists and the necessary credentialing material for insurer entry to disaster areas. The Web site address for the special section is

New York annually faces the threat of damaging hurricanes and coastal storms from June through November.

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