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Farmers Insurance wants cities to prepare for disaster recovery

This year, the city of Joplin, Mo., will finish its recovery from a 2011 tornado. 

The recovery phase will have taken somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 1/2 years — about half the time recovery usually takes, said Carrie Bonney, director of disaster recovery for Farmers Insurance.

The key to Joplin's success has been adherence to the principles of the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit that has developed a framework for how cities, counties and larger communities can soften the blow of disasters — natural and otherwise — and shorten the recovery phase, Bonney said.

Working with the St. Bernard Project, Bonney helped write the "Disaster Recovery Playbook" for Farmers Insurance. The playbook puts in writing some of the St. Bernard principles. They include guides for what kinds of private and government resources are available to disaster-stricken areas, how to start up a nonprofit that attracts volunteers, money and other resources to help get the recovery underway, how to get local businesses and the larger economy up and running again and how local governments should deal with banks an other institutions to keep their residents from financial ruin due to the disaster.

Farmers presented the book to the Association of Idaho Cities on Thursday. Bonney said she's not trying to sell the book to make money for Farmers Insurance. Instead, she said, the company simply wants to spread the word about how to get communities back on their feet quickly after they're struck by disaster.

If Joplin had started following the St. Bernard principles right after the 2011 tornado, Bonney said, that city's recovery would already be complete.