Hurricane Imminent roared towards the New Jersey coast, its 120 mile-per-hour winds devastating the homes along the 80 miles of barrier islands. The Category 3 storm left a million homeless and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. During the height of tourist season, the Jersey Shore from Cape May north was largely destroyed.
Fortunately for residents, the hurricane was contained within state police headquarters. While meteorologists are predicting weather conditions that could lead to at least two hurricanes affecting New Jersey this season, Hurricane Imminent was a simulation, conducted June 19th of this year to test the state's level of preparedness. Governor Jon M. Corzine and state department officials participated in the simulation to gauge just how prepared they were and just how much further work was required to get the coastal areas of the state ready for the worst-case scenario. At present, according to the Department of Homeland Security, New Jersey is not one of the states with acceptable plans.
Handling the Worst
In the wake of such potential devastation stands the Department of Banking and Insurance (DBI), the agency that would be charged with overseeing how well the insurers in the state handle claims and reconstruction.
Commissioner Steven M. Goldman participated in the event and said afterward, "We had a cabinet-level test for the state's response to a hurricane. We then talked with the insurers on the recovery process. We need to know where the deficiencies are and what needs to be addressed. We're not perfect, but certainly I think we're in a better state of readiness than Louisiana was in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We're far from perfect; we've taken a number of steps to look at this and the table top exercise gives us food for thought on what we need to do."
One possible solution is the bill introduced in the wake of the test by Assemblyman Michael Panter, D-Monmouth, that would create a $20 billion insurance fund specifically for catastrophe relief in New Jersey. If approved, the newly formed private-public catastrophic fund would be supervised by the department.