Editor’s note: Tom Janis is the Emergency Manager at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria. This is his contribution and analysis.
Imagine there was widespread damage from a natural catastrophe while serving overseas and the U.S. Army refused to pay or render aid. Unfathomable? Well, get ready Army.
Effective May 29, 2019, the Army no longer pays claims for unusual occurrences under the Personnel Claims Act when the damage is caused by flood, hurricane, earthquake, or other acts of nature or weather phenomena. That’s according to Army Directive 2019-21 (Restrictions on Personnel Claim Payments).
Disasters in Germany have historically caused considerable economic and human losses. Over time and space, storms, floods, extreme temperatures and earthquakes (yes, those things can happen) have had the largest impact in Germany.
In its 2016 report, the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM) detailed comprehensive research on natural disasters in Germany. In a two-week period from May through June 2016, large parts of Germany were repeatedly affected by severe thunderstorms.
Extreme rain exceeding 100 mm within 1-2 hours led to dramatic rise of water levels of various creeks. On May 29, a flash flood with a wave height of up to 3.5 m/11.5 ft damaged around 80 buildings in Braunsbach (Baden-Württemberg). Three days later, an extreme flood struck the town of Simbach (Bavaria) killing seven people as the 5m/16 ft high wall of water and debris rushed into town.
The Ahr valley (Rhineland-Palatinate) experienced heavy rain events over many days causing the worst flood ever reported. Around 7,000+ structures were affected in some manner, leading to an estimated €1.2 billion Euros in damages, according to the German Insurance Association (GDV).
And American service members, civilians and family are not alone.
Since July 1, 2019, the Bavarian government will no longer pay compensation or aid for natural catastrophes. According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, from 2010 – 2018, the Bavarian government paid out almost €900 million.
The occurrences and damages of natural disasters and their rising costs have been growing over the past decade and the fiscal impacts are no longer calculable causing both the U.S. Army and several other German state governments to stop providing compensation. Instead, they are encouraging individual responsibility for personal property.
Those who don’t have hazard, renter or personal property insurance may be left with the clean-up and loss.
A spokesperson from the Bavarian Ministry of Finance remarked, “As in other areas of life, the principles of self-reliance and personal precaution also apply to protection against natural hazards.”
The U.S. Army position is that Soldiers “should ensure they maintain private insurance against personal property losses caused by adverse weather and other hazards insurance normally covers.”
Many of the entitlements for disaster assistance and relief have been granted by German State governments since 2011. The best advice may be from the Bavarian state government who urges all citizens in Bavaria to check “their own insurance against the growing natural hazards and to fully insure property and household effects.”
The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK), is a joint publication from Operation Hope and FEMA that may help you prepare financially and provide tips to reduce the impact disasters can leave you with financially. It is available in both Spanish and English from FEMA at https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/96123.