Copyright 2009. All rights reserved
When it comes to making ourselves vulnerable to natural disasters by, for instance, building in floodplains, "Many property owners are putting themselves increasingly at risk, and businesses are no different," Louis Gritzo, vice president and manager of research for FM Global, one of the world’s largest business property insurers, told attendees at the recent Marine Law Symposium on climate change and oceans at Roger Williams University School of Law.
Gritzo said his company takes a unique engineering-driven approach to help its clients understand their property risk, protect their facilities "and insure what risk (they) can’t reduce."
He told the audience that Hurricane Sandy (by then a post-tropical storm) hit a portion of the East Coast that contributes to 14 percent of the nation’s GDP, and that commercial and industrial property losses annually to natural disasters amount to $110 billion per year. He predicted that future natural catastrophes will have ever increasing economic impact. Localized events likely will be felt by businesses worldwide, he said, because "many supply chains are tightly linked."
Despite this, he said, some companies fail to properly address their risk. He attributed this in part to cost but also to a mindset that uncertainty about what will happen in the future impedes taking action. He reported on an FM Global study of FORTUNE 1000-size companies, which found that 96 percent have operations exposed to natural disasters, but less than 20 percent were concerned about the potential negative effects of natural disasters on their businesses.
His company undertakes 100,000 client risk assessments per year, and its challenge, he said, is to help clients avoid the trap of uncertainty, define cost-effective solutions, and break through the "barriers of mindsets" by describing risks in real terms, to "bring disaster to life."
While he acknowledged that a true culture change will take time, an additional benefit will be safer and better-prepared businesses, and perhaps also better-prepared individuals, because "people’s actions in businesses transfer to homes and vice versa."
Gritzo spoke at the Marine Law Symposium "Shifting Seas: The Law’s Response to Changing Ocean Conditions" sponsored by the Marine Affairs Institute and the Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program at the Roger Williams University School of Law. More information on the other presentations at the symposium is available at
In Rhode Island and around the country, coastal communities are working to generate new industries, support job creation, and provide food and services to an ever-increasing population, through planning to manage and sustain the ocean’s resources. The nation’s fisheries and offshore renewable energy resources represent part of the answer.
Two new short films—one focusing on renewable energy, the other on fisheries—are the latest in a four-part series that explores ocean planning with practitioners from around the world. The renewable energy film, "Advancing the Ocean Economy: Renewable Energy," (http://zygotedigitalfilms.wistia.com/medias/6cx4kpnvic) introduces offshore renewable energy issues as they relate to ocean planning, and shows how coastal communities in the U.S. and overseas are turning to these resources, such as wind power, to support jobs and industries. The fisheries film, "Ocean Planning: Enhancing and Protecting out Fisheries," (http://zygotedigitalfilms.wistia.com/medias/5gjc6wny4p) offers thinking from practitioners about how ocean planning—with its emphasis on integrating planning approaches across multiple resources and user groups—could help solve complicated economic, social and environmental issues challenging the industry.
The recently released first film, "America’s Ocean Economy: Challenges and Opportunities," (http://seagrant.gso.uri.edu/oceansamp/multimedia.html) provides an overview of ocean planning as a tool for ocean managers, practitioners and a wide range of public and private partners to collaborate on ways to share and protect ocean resources, such as fishing stocks, shipping lanes and recreational areas.
The film series is supported by several funders and partners, including the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and Marine Affairs Research and Education (MARE), the team behind OpenChannels.org. Media firm Zygote Digital Films, Inc. developed the series.
To learn more about the films and the Rhode Island ocean planning process, visit the web site at seagrant.gso.uri.edu/coast/msp_training.html.
Rhode Island Sea Grant is facilitating for the state the creation of the Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan for the management and protection of shellfish resources, such as bay quahogs and oysters, located in state marine waters. The effort involves multiple state agencies, including the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council and the R.I.Department of Environmental Management, and engages stakeholders in identifying policies and practices to enhance the economic vitality of the shellfishing industry and its resources.
The R.I. Shellfish Management Plan coordination team is crafting a work plan for the next two years to address many of the issues that were voted as priorities by stakeholders during three scoping meetings in January. Presentations and seminars are planned to bring in experts to discuss topic areas identified as priorities by stakeholders, including water quality testing procedures and rationale, licensing, marketing, enforcement, and threats such as ocean acidification.
For information on upcoming meetings and presentations, visit the shellfish management plan website at seagrant.gso.uri.edu/seafood/shellfish_mgmt_plan.html or contact Amber Neville at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the listserv. If you'd prefer a call update on meetings, please contact Azure Cygler at (401) 874-6197 and she will add you to the call alert list.