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Public-private collaboration is the key to community resilience

August 7, 2019

It is only through the combined and coordinated efforts of government, businesses and individuals that communities can become more resilient to natural hazards.

By Kathleen Savio, Chief Executive Officer, Zurich North America

Kathleen Savio

I recently had the privilege of taking part in an important discussion about public-private partnerships at an event in our nation’s capital. Hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships Conference focused on the collaboration required among private, public and nonprofit sectors to help mitigate the effects of natural and human-made disasters to build resilience.

Because of the growing impact and frequency of natural hazards, community resilience is best realized through a collaborative approach. In order for us all to better prepare, react and rebuild after a disaster, businesses, nonprofits and government must work in tandem to build systems that can help communities survive natural hazards and recover more quickly.


At Zurich, we encourage businesses to explore ways to collaborate with the public sector and create platforms for change, while also creating value for their customers, their employees and their communities. This collaboration can also help make their operations more sustainable and resilient.

Disasters are local, but the lessons learned from them need not be. That’s why sharing knowledge about recovery efforts is a critical part of collaborating to build resilience. Zurich, for its part, has completed 14 post-event reviews of disasters around the world and has shared its findings and the research methodology for others to use.


The post-event reviews help us to gain a deeper understanding of what occurred and what lessons can be learned. Then, we take those lessons back to the communities, so they can be better prepared for the next hazard. The goal is that when the next natural hazard strikes, the damage will be less severe and the recovery will be quicker and less expensive. Our research shows every dollar spent in pre-event resilience saves, on average, five dollars in avoided losses.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that natural disasters cost the country $91 billion in 2018. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that 25 percent of businesses fail to reopen after disasters. These statistics help illustrate that a collaborative approach to helping our communities prepare for and recover from disasters is sound economic policy.


So how can private, public and nonprofit organizations begin to work together to improve resilience? Businesses, for one, can develop resilience strategies and contingency planning that shift from siloed interventions to a holistic approach – and insurance can play a role in this.

Through a grant from the Z Zurich Foundation, we are working with organizations such as the nonprofit SBP to help educate people on resilience. Founded in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina, SBP has rebuilt homes for more than 1,700 families in 10 communities across the United States and Puerto Rico. Through its resilience training, SBP works to share lessons learned, prevent common barriers to recovery and help communities utilize SBP’s standardized, repeatable and proven-effective model. Companies like UPS, Turner Construction, Sysco and Southwest Airlines are already leveraging the training for their employees.


Zurich, through its risk engineering services, is working with customers to help them understand how to build using Fortified for Commercial guidelines developed by the Institute for Business & Home Safety. We also offer insurance products to help our customers pay for some of the costs associated with building back to a more resilient standard.

And no risk management strategy would be complete without looking at financial resilience, including insurance. A localized disaster on the other side of the world, for example, could create a supply chain disruption that can have major ramifications for the global economy, affecting businesses and communities across the globe. Finally, many businesses are not adequately prepared for business interruptions that can arise from disasters and may find it hard to survive a lengthy shutdown without insurance protection to cover the losses.


To successfully build resilience today, individuals, organizations and communities must collaborate to address the evolving conditions, new challenges and growing crises in ways that enable them to emerge stronger. Insurance can continue to play a fundamental role in this effort.

Businesses can provide a strong platform to lead change. At Zurich, we gladly accept our role in this shared responsibility. In addition to sharing the lessons we’ve learned from conducting post-event reviews, we recently announced that we are increasing our commitment to limit the effects of climate change within our own business to positively affect the outside world.


Severe weather events are occurring more frequently and with greater severity. It will take the combined and coordinated efforts of businesses, government and other organizations to address this evolving risk and build greater community resilience.

To watch the webcast of the Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships Conference, go to https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/8th-annual-building-resilience-through-private-public-partnerships-conference