The insurance industry is in town and New Orleans will expect, and get, a top class performance.

We are not that different, you insurance folk and us journalists. We are both at our best in a disaster. That is not to say that we enjoy human suffering - not matter what they might say about the press, there is no enjoyment in reporting from the scene of a tragedy.

All the same, when everyone else is fleeing, it is usually the journalists and the loss adjusters who are moving the other way.

One of my colleagues was so determined to get to New Orleans, when her flight was diverted to Atlanta, she jumped on a plane to Mobile, Alabama, and drove the remaining 130 miles into the flood-stricken city while every other vehicle sped in the opposite direction. Another colleague is also writing from New Orleans; it was supposed to be a holiday from his usual posting, Baghdad.

As I said, it is not about enjoyment, it is about taking pride in doing a difficult job well. This is something I know insurers, brokers and loss adjusters understand. When the going gets tough for individuals or businesses, the insurance industry comes into its own.

While recently reporting on the troubles some policyholders in Boscastle had suffered at the hands of Arab-German Insurance, I spoke to other residents who were full of praise for the way their insurers came through when the Cornish village was devastated by floods.

On the commercial front, insurers, reinsurers, intermediaries and brokers work together to come up with the best and most comprehensive cover for extreme scenarios.

The insurance industry is good in a time of disaster. And disasters can be kind to the industry. As has been speculated by a number of underwriters, particularly in the Lloyd's market, where they are reporting their interims this week, Hurricane Katrina is likely to have a positive effect on rates.

The jury is still out on whether the storm will provide an uplift only in the areas of cover particularly affected by the disaster, or stops the wider slide into a soft market.

But the overall feeling is that the outcome, for insurers at least, will not be too painful. The papers have been full of stories that the FSA is conducting an "inquiry" into the market's Katrina losses, but the truth is that there is no concern at the watchdog that the hurricane will cause any long-lasting damage to London's insurers.

Others have tried to pin the troubles of Alea on the hurricane, when in truth the insurer was fighting a ratings downgrade for weeks previous. Even Standard & Poor's decision on Monday to put 10 insurance groups on Creditwatch negative was based more on a lack of information on insurers' losses than a fear of widespread collapse.

The only danger now is that the insurance industry shoots itself in the foot by appearing mean-spirited about claims arising from America's disaster-struck regions.

I am not a commentator who believes that insurers should somehow behave differently to other companies, that despite having shareholders and needing to make a profit, they should act like a charity.

But I do know that if the quibbling over claims from the US goes on for years, it will be the insurers that come out looking worst, no matter how many millions of dollars they save.

You cannot buy good public sentiment and, despite their brilliance in a catastrophe, insurers do not have a big enough stock of goodwill to squander it. IT