Washington State Natural Disaster and Resiliency Activities Work Group

On May 13, 2019, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington signed into law Substitute Senate Bill (SSB) 5106. The bill mandates the establishment of a Natural Disaster and Resiliency Activities Work Group, chaired by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, tasked with reviewing disaster resiliency activities in the state and making recommendations to the legislature and governor on whether an ongoing disaster resiliency program should be created. The Work Group is noteworthy for its focus on coordinating state-level activities related to disaster mitigation in a changing climate and for its emphasis on learning from the activities and coordination efforts of other state, federal, public, and private organizations.

Washington State has faced historic and recent disasters, including the largest wildfire season in state history in 2015, roughly $24 billion in insured losses from natural disasters in 2016, and massive flood damage claims in 2017. Washington also has the second-highest earthquake risk in the United States. As a result, the bill is aimed at better preparing the state for and mitigating the impacts of disasters through the recommendations of the Work Group.

The Work Group is comprised of 30 members across a variety of groups, including the state legislature, tribal leadership, state agencies, private organizations (including the insurance industry), and government leaders from local municipalities. The group’s task is to review activities related to natural disaster resilience and make recommendations based on their findings to the executive and legislative branches. This peer learning aspect includes reviewing activities and coordination efforts of the federal government as well as private and public organizations in Washington and other states. Review of activities will seek to answer the following explicit questions, among others: 

  • Should the state create an ongoing disaster resilience program? If so, what activities will the program manage? 
  • Where will the program be housed and how will it be funded? 
  • How will the program coordinate between state agencies and other relevant disaster mitigation entities?

The Work Group is required to submit its final recommendations to the governor by December 1, 2020. This post will be updated accordingly.

Publication Date: May 13, 2019

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