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Archive for Monday, August 4, 2008

Cities put premium on protection against terrorism

Insurance a small price to pay for peace of mind

Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle was on the city council that first purchased terrorism insurance for the town after the Sept. 11 attacks. Coverage for the town east of Lawrence is less than $500 a year.

Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle was on the city council that first purchased terrorism insurance for the town after the Sept. 11 attacks. Coverage for the town east of Lawrence is less than $500 a year.

August 4, 2008

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Pop quiz: What do the Golden Gate Bridge and Eudora's city hall have in common?

Stumped?

Both are covered by terrorism insurance.

It was shortly after Sept. 11 that Eudora's city commissioners voted to purchase a policy protecting the city from terrorism attacks.

Today it may seem like an odd choice, given the small likelihood that Eudora will be targeted by terrorists. But at the time, it seemed like the right decision.

"In this day and age, you just never know," said Mayor Tom Pyle, who served on the city council when the $369 annual policy was purchased.

Several cities and townships in the region, as well as Douglas County, invest in terrorism insurance, a practice that became popular after Sept. 11, the worst insurance liability in history, costing insurers $32 billion.

In November 2002, President Bush signed into law the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), a short-term measure designed to help the insurance industry recover from 9/11. The law was reauthorized in 2005 and 2007 and is due to expire in 2014.

TRIA "did two things," explained Jennifer Harvey, risk manager for Lawrence, which does not carry terrorism insurance. It acted as a "backstop to guide insurance companies on providing coverage, (and) also set about a way for the Treasury to determine how they might compensate under acts of terrorism."

Terrorism is defined as acts of violence designed to injure or kill people, or to distort government policy. A terrorist act must be certified by the secretary of the Treasury, the secretary of State and the U.S. attorney general.

Though it would seem that terror targets in the area are few, some say the decision to invest in terrorism insurance is simple, and similar to considering other types of insurance.

"The question is, who has a risk?" said David Miller, owner of Miller Agency in Eudora, which insures the city of Eudora for $476 a year.

Douglas County Assistant County Administrator Pam Madl said terrorism insurance was an additional option that the county decided to purchase.

"We don't have any outstanding concerns that we might be targeted," she said. "The coverage was such that there were some things covered more fully than our other polices covered."

Douglas County's annual premium is $6,272.

'We're at war'

Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin, who has studied terrorism extensively in master's and doctoral work, declined to identify any potential targets in Lawrence and Douglas County. But even with Kansas University's research facilities, the Clinton Lake dam and government and historic sites in the area, city and county administrators don't think there are many viable targets in the area.

"I don't think we have any greater risk than any other Midwest community," Harvey said.

Olin called the area "an improbable terror target."

But, he said, "We're at war. We have identified groups of people, and indeed thousands and thousands of people that wish to destroy the Western way of life. Obviously, if we're at war and we are continuing to commit troops to foreign soil, and if we have had attacks on our own soil, there is a reason to be concerned."

Miller believes caution should be exercised; terrorism can occur even if prime targets do not exist, he said.

"There was a plane that went down somewhere in Pennsylvania (that) could have struck any number of places," he said, referring to a plane hijacked on Sept. 11 that crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa.

Weighing possibilities

Chester Fitch, a trustee in Grant Township, said his township does not have terrorism insurance, but understands the need to consider such coverage.

"You have to weigh everything, of course. You wouldn't want to go without insurance on a dump truck, but the chances of something like terrorism happening in the township are probably not huge," he said. "But it probably has to be (considered)."

Clinton Township Treasurer Mike Fangman said the $39 the township pays annually is worth it, despite the low probability of an incident.

"Is there a high percentage? No. If you consider $39 to protect (the township), that's not a lot of money, either," he said.

Coverage is needed

Karen Logan, city clerk for Leavenworth, said she would not consider purchasing a policy that did not include terrorism insurance.

"Prior to 9/11, I might not have thought of terrorism coverage. But since that, no matter what city I'm with, I'm going to think that we need terrorism coverage," she said.

Fort Leavenworth and the federal penitentiary in the city are covered by federal insurance, Logan said. Leavenworth's terrorism insurance covers all city facilities, from the wastewater treatment plant to the library.

"Every single piece of property that we have is covered," she said. Leavenworth pays $4,107 a year for terrorism insurance.

Tonganoxie pays $59 a year for a similar policy, said City Administrator Michael Yanez.

"I think it's just common sense to make that small investment to protect several million dollars worth of public infrastructure," he said. Tonganoxie has had terrorism insurance for at least five years, and Yanez likens it to purchasing wind insurance.

"It's just cheap insurance for a possible costly occurrence," he said.

In the end, administrators and insurance agents believe purchasing terrorism insurance, even in an area that is an unlikely target, is the way to go. And since the costs are low, purchasing terrorism insurance makes sense.

"We're pretty fortunate here in Lawrence and the Midwest to not be thought of by the insurance industry or anyone else to be a real terrorism target," said Gary Sollars, an agent with HRH of Kansas, which carries the county's insurance. "It's a no-brainer because it's pretty inexpensive."

Comments

LA_Ex 5 years, 8 months ago

Is this real? This article has to be a joke. I can't believe that the Eudora City Commission keeps this policy active. I can understand freaking out immediately after 9/11, but why keep the policy after rationalization should have set in? I can see John Stewart from the Daily Show calling the Eudora City Hall right now.

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barrypenders 5 years, 8 months ago

That must have been one heck of an insurance salesman.

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Steve Jacob 5 years, 8 months ago

Name me the last three terrorist attacks in America? OKC, 9/11, and Anthrax. People on US government payroll can be a terrorist just as easily as the Muslim we all think of.

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JJE007 5 years, 8 months ago

hahahahahahaThe sky is falling in Eudora! Cross the road, chickens!

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