THE MAGAZINE

Masters of Disasters

By Robert Elliott

The past year has been the busiest in the 75-year lifespan of Kenyon International Emergency Services. For starters, last December the firm was called in to Thailand to deal with the aftermath of the tsunami that swamped parts of the country. That was immediately followed by the crash of a Helios Airways plane in Greece that claimed 121 lives. Then came Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the southern United States. These incidents “have literally run back-to-back,” says Jerry Allen, vice president of planning at Kenyon International. “This has been by far the most active period in our history.”

Kenyon’s experience is not surprising, given the scope and impact of recent catastrophes. The hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 alone account for roughly twice as many insurance claims as all previous hurricanes since 1990, according to Risk Management Solutions. And although all the numbers for 2005 were not in as of press time, it was already the costliest year for insurance payments related to natural disasters, according to the Insurance Information Institute. 

The one potential benefit to come from all of these experiences is that they can be used by Kenyon and other disaster recovery firms to improve their emergency response efforts in the future. “We do lessons learned every time out. We’re doing it now,” says Dennis Kwiatkowski,  vice president of federal programs for Dewberry, a professional services firm focused on engineering that did recovery work related to Katrina and Rita. Following are some of the major lessons that have been derived from .

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