Many people leverage academic achievement, a college or professional degree, into a career. Kathy Schaefer is doing the opposite; using her knowledge and experience as a FEMA engineer to get a PhD. “I want to explore how to apply new concepts of risk, many of which corporations use, to fund infrastructure improvements.” Kathy explained that FEMA requires people who live in flood zones to buy flood insurance, but on average people only pay for four years before they let it lapse. As mortgages are sold down the line, the buyers don’t verify that flood insurance is up to date. There’s little incentive to maintain flood insurance because, “FEMA disaster compensation is easier to get if you don’t have flood insurance.”
Kathy wants to draw on private sector resources to explore how we tighten up flood insurance requirements and use premiums to create infrastructure that would minimize disaster impacts. She plans to apply Katrisk, a supercomputer model that private insurers use to assess flood risk, to FEMA. “FEMA maps are tied to building restrictions. You have requirements like, ‘raise your house 9.43 feet’ In Katrisk that level of detail doesn’t matter.” It’s actuarially based, not construction based.
I asked Kathy why, after one career in the Air Force and a second at FEMA, she wants to pursue a PhD. “The PhD. is a focal point, it will drive me. Also, I worked and commuted while getting my college degree. I want that collegiate experience I never had.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“I think it’s going to be wonderful. I think we’ll be much more connected. The future is going to be amazing in ways we cannot imagine. Repetitive tasks will be done by machine unless we want the Zen experience.
“Governing will be more fluid. City and county government is going to go away. We’ll make decisions by consensus.
“I think the younger people get it better than we do.”