Catastrophe response panel important for Oklahoma

BY JOHN DOAK Published: March 18, 2011
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One of the first questions I asked after being sworn in was where is our catastrophe response playbook? The reason is simple: Oklahoma ranks third in the number of federally declared disasters, behind only Texas and California. Unfortunately, there wasn't a disaster plan at the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

Since that day, the need for a catastrophe response plan has become more apparent. Two snow storms battered the state. The year's first tornadoes were reported the same day a wildfire destroyed two residences and damaged and threatened others.

Oklahomans know it's not a question of whether a catastrophe is going to occur, it's a question of when. And when that disaster strikes, it's important that the Oklahoma Insurance Department is there to assist the insured and their insurers.

This is why I created the Catastrophe Response Task Force to coordinate efforts of the Insurance Department and the industry, marking the first time the department has joined with the industry in this manner.

My department and representatives of the insurance industry are now writing the playbook we will use in a catastrophe. I asked the best and the brightest from the industry, representatives of large companies and small, to participate and they willingly agreed. I appointed Paul Wilkening, deputy commissioner of administration, to represent the department. Wilkening is a master exercise practitioner for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a member of the instructor cadre at FEMA's National Emergency Training Center, Emergency Management Institute. He is the first person at the Insurance Department to hold the certification.