Creating Safer, More Resilient Communities

September 20, 2018
Marlene Ibsen
Vice President, Community Relations, The Travelers Companies, Inc.; CEO & President, Travelers Foundation
Joan_Woodward
Executive Vice President, Public Policy, The Travelers Companies, Inc.; President, Travelers Institute

More than $300 billion. That’s the cumulative amount spent in 2017 on weather-related disasters in the United States, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. It was the costliest year for natural disasters in U.S. history. On top of that, the National Institute of Building Sciences estimates that every $1 spent on natural hazard mitigation would save the nation $6 — a compelling case for taking proactive steps to create safer, more resilient communities.

Insurance companies see firsthand the devastation caused by catastrophes, and the industry is continuously looking for ways to increase mitigation efforts in the United States. A program that Travelers established in 2015 — the Travelers Excellence in Community Resilience Award — is doing just that.

Travelers created the award to raise awareness about the importance of disaster preparedness and help fund organizations that assist in recovery efforts and promote related best practices. The award provides a $100,000 grant, which is presented at the annual “Kicking Off Hurricane Preparedness Season” symposium, hosted by the Travelers Institute, the company’s public policy division. The symposium aims to educate communities about strategies to better prepare for — and respond to — severe storms.

The following organizations have received the award for their work in helping communities become more resilient:

  • Team Rubicon (2015) uses the skills and experiences of military veterans, along with first responders, to deploy emergency response teams after disasters.
  • All Hands and Hearts (2016) engages volunteers and the community to help families recover more quickly from natural disasters.
  • Lowlander Center (2017) specializes in promoting the resilience of lowland and bayou communities for the benefit of people and the environment.
  • Smart Home America (2018) promotes stronger construction standards, improved building codes, and policies that create more resilient communities. The organization has a strong partnership with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety to increase awareness of the FORTIFIED Home™ construction method and build FORTIFIED homes in disaster-prone areas. The two organizations are currently working together in Texas to support recovery efforts still underway after Hurricane Harvey.

The award has also led to ongoing relationships with Team Rubicon and All Hands and Hearts.

Team Rubicon

Since winning the award, Team Rubicon has built a strong relationship with Travelers. The organization has increased its volunteer base by nearly 70 percent. Travelers donated $1 million to launch the Mobile Training Center, an RV that Team Rubicon takes state to state recruiting and training large groups of volunteers to help communities more effectively respond when disaster strikes. Travelers has a proud history of being a military-friendly company, and many of its employees volunteer with Team Rubicon.

All Hands and Hearts

The partnership with All Hands and Hearts came to life this past March, when Travelers sent a group of volunteers to Puerto Rico to assist in the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Maria. All Hands and Hearts connected Travelers with the mayor of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, who said the real need in the community was a safe place for kids to play. Baseball is a point of pride for the area, and their playing field had been destroyed. The mayor identified a field that Travelers, in coordination with All Hands and Hearts, transformed into a new baseball diamond and playscape. The field is used seven days a week by more than 500 kids.

Travelers hopes to grow its base of partnerships and help more organizations better prepare their respective communities across the country.

Applications for the 2019 Travelers Excellence in Community Resilience Award will open in November of 2018.