Currently showing: Climate/natural disasters > Disaster risk

27 Jan 15 18:46

Every year, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases an Infrastructure Report Card, which depicts the condition and performance of the nation’s infrastructure. In 2013, the United States received a D+ grade due to the poor condition of its infrastructure, which includes bridges, highways, tunnels, drinking water and more. The vast majority of systems in place today were built 75-100 years ago, but were designed to last an average of 50-60 years. According to the 2013 report card released by the ASCE, an investment of $3.6 trillion dollars is needed in 2020 in order to make vast improvements to our infrastructure.

The bridge collapse that happened in Cincinnati last week is a tragic reminder of the importance of infrastructure investment and improvement. Even though the bridge was in process of demolition, the incident raises further questions about the overall safety of critical infrastructure. As an insurance company, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions is concerned about our nation's critical infrastructure. A significant natural catastrophe can compound losses due to failing infrastructure, which we saw first-hand with Hurricane Sandy.

Pennsylvania is a prime example of a state that is in drastic need of physical improvement. In a 2014 interview which aired on CBS's 60 Minutes, Andy Herrmann, former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, stated, “Three hundred bridges become structurally deficient each year in the state of Pennsylvania. That’s one percent added to the already 23 percent they already have. They just can’t fix them fast enough.” Ray LaHood, former US Secretary of Transportation, in an interview with Diane Rehm on “The Diane Rhem Show,” stated that the roads and highways aren’t getting the attention they need. “At one time…we were the leader in infrastructure, we built the interstate system. It’s the best road system in the world…we’re falling way behind other countries, because we have not made the investments.”

Solving this problem is essential to the future of the United States and the rest of the world. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions is committed to work with others to create a solution that will not only sustain our cities and countries, but also improve on the systems that we already have. We've proposed a public-private partnership bond initiative, which would help secure funding to the much-needed infrastructure investments.

Follow us on Twitter @SwissRe_CS. Join the conversation about our proposed partnership bond and let us know what your thoughts are on critical infrastructure. You can also connect with me on Twitter @BPetrilli_SRCS or Linkedin to engage on this and other insurance topics.

Category: Climate/natural disasters: Disaster risk, Resilience


Rashunda Tramble - 29 Jan 2015, 9:08 a.m.

Infrastucture investment is key for two reasons. The first, as you mentioned Bob, we're failing as a country in that area. I see this when I go home (Tennessee). I didn't need to check my home state's report card, but here you go...

The Volunteer State is a slow learner comes to infrastructure. And with my hometown of Memphis being a national transportation hub, this shouldn't happen.

The second is that infrastructure investment creates jobs. Apparently the US Administration is putting money into infrastructure investment programs to rebuild our roads, etc. I'm guessing that some of this money will get to TN. Our unemployment rate is 7.1%. Nationally it's 5.8%. If this can help get people back to work *and* get our transportation system back to standard, it's a win-win.

Steve Rogers - 9 Feb 2015, 11:16 p.m.

Infrastructure construction does create jobs, but ironically despite high unemployment, the US does not have the needed workers: modern heavy construction has little or no need for unskilled or inappropriately skilled labor, and many of the skilled trades required are already in short supply.

Gladys Yaneth Beltrán Paipa - 10 Feb 2015, 5:19 p.m.

Se hace necesario poner mucha atención a un punto tan relevante para toda una nación, el cuidado y mantenimiento de las vías, por cuanto es el punto de enlace entre todos los pobladores, foráneos y demás y ni que decir la afectación a nivel económico y social.

InfraAUFRuhr - 10 Feb 2015, 9:49 p.m.

... Infrastructure is really crucial - both so called hard ware (as motorways, fast rail links, bridges) and even more in today´s world so called "soft ware" (incl. all communication networks).
For example in the German Rhineland area there is one of Cologne´s Rhine motorway bridges (the A1 Cologne - Leverkusen stretch) limited to light vehicles only.
However that´s only one side of the coin.
The other is missing fast data communication infrastructure and even more crucial, good schools to teach people to appreciate the new age of Internet of Things.

Rashunda Tramble - 11 Feb 2015, 11:38 a.m.

Good point. So maybe there should also be a focus on retraining?

Steve Rogers - 16 Feb 2015, 11:01 p.m.

Yes, training and retraining are critical. They also need to happen soon, because (at least in the US) the skilled trade workforce is heavily skewed toward older workers. As these workers retire, the industries lose a valuable resource: new trainees are good, but you need the veterans to perform difficult jobs and provide mentoring for new trainees. There is a vast world of difference between a 20-year veteran and a new entrant fresh out of a training program.

A big part of the problem is that for several generations the US education system has de-emphasized the skilled trades in favor of an "everyone should go to college" mentality, and many who don't go to college drop out altogether rather than pursuing training in the trades. As a result, we have large numbers of workers with no training or with training that does not get them work, while employers struggle to fill jobs that pay well.

There's a lot of discussion of the problem in trade journals, which is interesting because the writers are not making a political point, just examining an industry problem. Some examples:

Bob Petrilli - 19 Feb 2015, 1:27 p.m.

Thanks for the great feedback and discussion on this topic. @Steve, I agree that skilled labor is an important topic to accompany the infrastructure conversation. When you look at the survey link you provide, equipment operators appear near the top of the list of "hardest to find" laborers.

@InfraAUFRuhr also a good point on distinguishing between "hard" infrastructure and "soft". With communications networks (and even utilities - which is another aging element of the US infrastructure system) network security becomes an important consideration. The cyber risk elements add complexity for operators of these infrastructure systems. Cyber is an area that should be addressed entirely.

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