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A Record-Setting Year for Natural Disasters

There may be three months left in 2011, and hurricane season is not over until November 30, but this year will already go down as...
October 4, 2011

There may be three months left in 2011, and hurricane season is not over until November 30, but this year will already go down as a record-setting one when it comes to federal disaster declarations. Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, said, "The federal government issued 85 disaster declarations as of September 30, breaking the previous annual U.S. record total of 81, which was set just last year. The number of U.S. disaster declarations has been trending sharply upward, particularly over the past 15 years. The average number of declarations between 1953 and 2010 was 34 per year. We're likely to see nearly three times that many by year-end 2011." Hartwig added that the increase in recent years was due both to growth in the actual number of catastrophes, as well as an apparent increase in the propensity to issue federal disaster declarations.

Federal disaster declarations make federal funding available for emergency recovery efforts to support state, tribal, territorial and local communities. These funds supplement monies already allocated by private-sector insurers, other governments and private nonprofit organizations. Many disasters in 2011 have created enormous, unanticipated budgetary pressures on the federal government, compounding an already grim fiscal situation and prompting Congressional debates about how to finance FEMA's disaster assistance programs and the extension of FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program.

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