America’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is considering a strategy that involves blockchain to speed up disaster relief payments.
The proposal which was made by America’s disaster response mitigators comes through a draft text of its National Advisory Council’s (NAC) November report that was published on Monday.
The recommendation on NAC builds on federal history of considering blockchain applications in disaster relief. Last December, the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency unit met to discuss how blockchain could have been used to help out the post-Maria effort in Puerto Rico.
The draft of the advisory body text asks FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor to first launch a blockchain pilot program for land registries.
The NAC argued that blockchain could simplify and improve the speed of government payouts communities rely on in the wake of natural disasters.
“In many disasters, such as Hurricanes Maria in Puerto Rico or Harvey in Texas, affected communities may lose the type of information needed to file a claim, such as policy documents, land ownership records, and personal identification, among others,” the draft said.
“By piloting a blockchain-based registry in this manner, FEMA can catalyze cross-sector engagement and develop technology-enabled use cases that can improve the speed of disaster responses and insurance claim payments, without sacrificing accuracy or increasing the risk of fraud.”
Beyond building a pilot, the NAC recommends that FEMA make a partnership with insurance agencies to launch the service, improving its ability to quickly send its “disaster dividend” or “harm’s way” payouts to those that have been impacted by disasters.
In a draft report by the NAC, it said that FEMA should pursue blockchain solutions for disaster relief due to the advantages of maintaining records in multiple locations. Because of decentralization, a blockchain solution would save important information across many servers, effectively neutralizing the threat ofsingle point-of failure that one flood could inflict; that is in terms of damage from a major storm if all the data were kept in just one physical location.
“Their principal attractiveness is their decentralized structure, which improves resilience and recovery efforts in a disaster because critical information is stored off-site and in a highly trusted, secure platform.”
Previously, the NAC issued recommendations around blockchain technology, though not for disaster relief payouts. After its meeting in November 2018, the council recommended former Administrator Brock Long launch a blockchain pilot for FEMA’s “inefficient” and disparate housing assistance program.
“Worse this inefficiency places a tremendous burden on disaster survivors trying to cope with multiple program requirements, lost documentation, and redundant requests while still reeling from disaster effects,” NAC Chairman Nim Kidd said in the letter.
Any on-the-ground application of the proposal by NAC is far off.
The Administrator Gaynor would need to adopt NAC’s final recommendations, and then FEMA would need “to convene, scope, and monitor a pilot project between key stakeholders, including technology firms, academic institutions,” plus recruit state and local leaders who might want to get involved.