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Hurricane disaster relief should be data driven

Coastal flooding
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Coastal flooding Sandy

The 2017 season began with Hurricane Harvey’s record-breaking rainfall and destruction. It was followed by Irma, which ripped through the Atlantic coast and affected more than half a dozen states. The season ended with Maria — which left severe devastation and 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico without power and other basic necessities.

These disasters — which made up the most destructive and costly hurricanes on record — impacted businesses small and large, families and local communities.  The country had a monumental recovery challenge that is still ongoing.

{mosads}The administration and Congress are acutely aware of the need for preparedness. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently noted, “The devastating hurricane season of 2017 demonstrated the necessity for prompt and accurate hurricane forecasts.”


The inherent unpredictability of natural disasters, whether they be hurricanes, droughts, fires or floods, creates a level of risk and uncertainty that affects everyone. While federal agencies along with state and local governments prepare and respond to the best of their ability, innovative new uses of private sector business data are helping to speed recovery efforts — bringing aid to those who need it the most.

As a partner of the National Emergency Management Association’s Private Sector Information Task Force, at Dun & Bradstreet we know business risk and economic impact assessments can help inform state, local and federal agencies’ response and coordination efforts following extreme weather events.

Utilizing private sector data through this partnership, government has been able to gain new insights into the impact a storm has on specific businesses, industries and the local workforce. This data has helped streamline recovery activities — from ensuring that small businesses are given the assistance they need to stay open, to putting individuals back to work quickly.

After Hurricane Matthew descended on North Carolina in 2016, we worked alongside state emergency management officials to assess the economic impacts that the storm had on the agriculture industry.

Utilizing business data, North Carolina was able to assess the needs of small, family-owned farms, and ensure that they had the recovery assistance that would keep them in business.

Leveraging data as an asset to derive meaningful evidence-based governmental tools allows for implementation of a smarter and more efficient strategy to respond to natural disasters. As in North Carolina, the goal is to save time and money by identifying areas of need more accurately and quickly, helping communities return to normal in the wake of natural devastation.

Businesses and governments are vulnerable to countless risks on a daily basis. Tropical Storm Alberto, which kicked off the 2018 hurricane season during Memorial Day weekend, reinforced the need for a comprehensive strategy to responding to devastating natural disasters and the need to improve based on lessons learned.

Policymakers should foster public-private partnership with government agencies, to ensure that private sector innovations can provide advanced mission-based analytics, synthesizing data in a way that enables better informed decisions to be made for recovery efforts.  As a result, American businesses will receive the prompt and effective support they need to bounce back and play a critical role in revitalizing their local communities.

Bill Pastro is senior vice president of North American Government Solutions for Dun & Bradstreet.

Tags Data extreme weather hurricane season Natural disaster Wilbur Ross

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