While there’s much focus on storm surge risk in New Orleans as we mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, two new reports highlight the vulnerability of other U.S. coastal cities to storm surge flooding.

An analysis by Karen Clark & Co ranks the U.S. cities most vulnerable to storm surge flooding based on losses to residential, commercial and industrial properties from the 100 year hurricane.

The findings may surprise you.

KCC reveals that some of the cities most vulnerable to storm surge flooding have not been impacted for decades. A few have not experienced a direct hit from a major hurricane in the historical record.

Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida is the metropolitan area most vulnerable to storm surge flooding, according to KCC, with a loss potential of $175 billion.

Four of the top cities (Tampa, Miami, Fort Myers and Sarasota) are in Florida, and the west coast of the state is more vulnerable than the east coast.

In fact, three cities—Tampa, New Orleans and New York—will likely have losses exceeding $100 billion from the 100 year event.

KCC notes that most of the flood damage potential is currently not insured, and that “private flood insurance presents a significant opportunity for insurers that have the right tools for understanding the risk.”

Meanwhile, a new report by catastrophe modeling firm RMS, took a look at six coastal cities in the U.S. to evaluate how losses from storm surge are expected to increase in the next 85 years and found that cities such as Tampa, Miami and New York face greater risk of economic loss from storm surge.

To evaluate risk, RMS compared the chance of each city sustaining at least $15 billion in economic losses from storm surge—the amount of loss that would occur if the same area of New Orleans was flooded today as was flooded in 2005.

Based on its findings, Tampa has a 1-in-80 chance of experiencing at least $15 billion storm surge losses this year, followed by Miami with a 1-in-125 chance and New York with a 1-in-200 chance.

New Orleans still faces significant risk, with a 1-in-440 chance of at least $15 billion in economic losses related to a storm surge event, RMS noted.

Looking ahead to 2100, the likelihood of those cities sustaining this level of losses rises dramatically.

By then both Tampa and Miami will have a 1-in-30 chance of experiencing at least $15 billion in economic losses related to a storm surge event, while in New York the chance increases to 1-in-45 and in New Orleans to 1-in-315.

Here’s the visual on RMS’ findings via its infographic:

katrina-10th-anniversary-campaign-infographic

 

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) is looking back at the costliest hurricane in U.S. history that took 1,800 lives and cost $125 billion in total economic losses, via a comprehensive infographic.

Insurance claims by coverage and state, total National Flood Insurance Program losses from Katrina, and other sources of Katrina recovery funds are all detailed.

Another compelling section to the infographic asks where are we now?

One of the fascinating analogies it draws is that even as awareness of flooding due to coastal storms rises, so too does the population of coastal communities.

As the I.I.I. notes, the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina gives us a timely opportunity to look at the nation’s preparedness for megadisasters.

I.I.I. disaster preparedness experts will be available via satellite media tour on Thursday August 27 to discuss how individuals and small business owners can better prepare.

View the infographic below to see Hurricane Katrina by the numbers:

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I was in New Orleans last week speaking at a Louisiana Department of Insurance conference marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, writes Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) chief actuary James Lynch.

State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon (pictured below) organized the conference to emphasize how the state’s property insurance market “is more competitive and more viable than it was the day before Hurricane Katrina.” The state sought private market solutions to keep the marketplace vibrant in the wake of more than $25 billion in insured losses.

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Louisiana adopted a statewide building code so structures would be better able to withstand a hurricane. It abolished its politically appointed Insurance Rating Commission, which made it easier for insurers to charge fair premiums. And the state carefully winnowed customers out of its insurer of last resort, Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Citizens’ market share soared after the 2005 hurricane season, approaching 10 percent by 2008. By 2014, its market share had fallen to 1.8 percent.

I spoke on a panel about the state’s property insurance markets operate today. I tried to emphasize how Louisiana’s experience shows the importance of adequate insurance. We also talked about alternative capital and how it is shaping the pricing of catastrophe reinsurance, a topic I.I.I. has discussed here.

Over the next few weeks, you will be seeing a lot of media coverage of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Here are some notable links:

  • The New Orleans Times-Picayune won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage. The paper recaps that work and adds an up-to-date perspective here (h/t to I.I.I.’s Diane Portantiere for the link).
  • NPR is pouring out audio reports this month on Hurricane Katrina: 10 Years of Recovery and Reflection.
  • Forbes contributor Marshall Shepherd talked to meteorologists who noted how forecasting has improved in the past 10 years. Lots of interesting insights, including Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach, who sadly notes that a well-forecast hurricane like Katrina still resulted in more than 1,500 deaths. Klotzbach wondered how many survivors of Category 5 Hurricane Camille in 1969 reasoned that Cat 3 Katrina “would be a piece of cake.” I can confirm that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, in his tick-tock memoir about the storm and its aftermath, constantly referred back to his Camille experience – until he saw Katrina’s devastation. Tragically, the breadth and height of Katrina’s storm surge were unprecedented.
  • Barbour’s was one of many books published to coincide with the anniversary. The New York Times Book Review on August 7 featured New Orleans works, including a review of “Katrina: After the Flood,” about the city’s recovery, and a roundup of works examining the tragedy from racial, social and cultural perspectives.
  • Business Insurance discusses how catastrophe models have improved in the past 10 years, particularly in the quality of the input the models receive:
    • For example, casino barges moored on the Mississippi Gulf coast, badly damaged in Katrina’s storm surge, often were wrongly classified as normal buildings, said Jayanta Guin, executive vice president at Boston-based catastrophe modeler AIR Worldwide. Now, modelers have better data on the construction characteristics, occupancy, height and other aspects of individual buildings, he said.
  • Global Insurer Allianz used the anniversary to draw on its own database of major business insurance claims worldwide to examine trends in catastrophe losses, particularly (but not exclusively) marine losses. Its report, released August 18, points to these lessons learned:
    • Storm surge can cause more damage than high winds. Storm surge has been a contributing factor in half of the costliest U.S. storms.
    • Levees in the United States need improvement, even after the rebuilding of New Orleans’ levees after Katrina.
    • Most wind damage occurred “to the building envelope” – roof, walls, windows.
    • Demand surge can not only affect the price of materials and workers, post storm, it can affect the quality of materials, as we famously saw with drywall that created a new set of issues.

 

The cyber insurance market for small- to mid-sized companies is much friendlier than the market for larger insureds, according to the findings of an annual survey just released by Betterley Risk Consultants.

The Cyber/Privacy Insurance Market Survey 2015 notes that there are many insurance products competing for the business of small and mid-sized (SME) organizations.

Brokers are actively selling cyber policies to their SME insureds, and more are buying than ever before, as they realize the potential for liability, breach and response costs, arising out of the possession of private data.

The report says:

Rates for the SME segment are still competitive and renewals are generally flat, even a bit soft, undoubtedly affected by the numerous insurers getting a foothold in the cyber insurance market. Smaller insureds tend to have lower limits and often have relatively modest claims.”

In contrast, cyber coverage for larger organizations, especially those in retail and healthcare, are finding it more difficult to buy adequate limits at a reasonable price, the report suggests, as insurers are increasingly strict about adherence to cyber security and payment card industry standards.

For the larger/retail/healthcare insured, rates are rising, with increases in the 10-25 percent range most common. But the report points out:

This is for untroubled organizations; it’s worse (up to 200 percent) if they have claims experience that has yet to result in significantly improved cybersecurity measures.”

While annual premium volume information about the U.S. cyber insurance market is hard to come by, the report concludes that annual gross written premium is growing and may be as much $2.75 billion in 2015, up from $2 billion in last year’s report.

We think the market has nowhere to go but up—as long as insurers can still write at a profit.”

This year’s report includes products offered by 31 insurers, up from 28 in 2014.

Check out the Insurance Information Institute’s (I.I.I.) online resource for business insurance here.

 

While total economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disaster events remain far below-average in the first half of 2015, the global insurance and reinsurance industry is covering a higher than average percentage of those losses.

That’s the key takeaway from preliminary sigma estimates of global catastrophe losses for the first half of 2015, just released by Swiss Re.

Of the $37 billion in total economic losses from disaster events in the first half of 2015, the global insurance and reinsurance industry covered nearly 45 percent, or $16.5 billion, of these losses.

This is higher than the previous 10-year average of 27 percent covered by the global re/insurance industry.

Of the overall insured losses in the first half of 2015, $12.9 billion came from natural disasters, down from nearly $20 billion in first half 2014, and again below the average first-half year loss of the previous 10 years ($25 billion).

Man-made disasters triggered an additional $3.6 billion in insured losses in the first half of 2015, sigma said.

So why did insurance and reinsurance cover a higher proportion of global catastrophe losses in the first half?

The answer lies in the location of the most costly insured natural catastrophes losses for the insurance industry in the first half of 2015—thunderstorms in the United States and winter storm losses in Europe.

These larger loss events, as well as the severe winter weather in North America, all contributed to the lower percentage of uninsured losses through the first half of the year.

Here’s the Swiss Re chart showing the dollar breakout of insured and uninsured catastrophe-related losses from 2005 through 2015:

CatastropheLossesInsuredandUninsured

Note: insured losses + uninsured losses= total economic losses

But, as Artemis blog reports here, sadly the lower proportion of uninsured losses is not related to any major increase in insurance penetration.

The Nepal earthquakes provide a striking example. While economic losses from the quakes are estimated at $5 billion, only around $160 million were insured.

In the words of Kurt Karl, chief economist at Swiss Re:

The tragic events in Nepal are a reminder of the utility of insurance. Insurance cover does not lessen the emotional trauma that natural catastrophes inflict, but it can help people better manage the financial fallout from disasters so they can start to rebuild their lives.”

Check out Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) facts and statistics on global catastrophes.

Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) chief actuary James Lynch offers some perspective on underwriting and auto insurance pricing.

The journalist was working a story on how insurers vary rates in some surprising ways. Over the past few days, industry skeptics have questioned how insurers could have the audacity to charge widows more than married couples, and they have questioned whether drivers with poor credit histories should pay a higher surcharge than a driver with a DUI.

“Does that sound fair?” he asked.

I can’t tell you what the journalist thinks is fair, and of course, my reader friend, I can’t tell what is in your mind.

However, state laws tell insurers what the word fair means, and stripped of legalese, they say a fair rate has to follow the risk as much as possible. People who present great risk must pay more than people who present less risk.

Insurers collect tremendous amounts of data to prove just that.

If an insurer can show that married couples present less risk than others, they deserve a discount. That is fair. It is also fair that men pay more than women and the young pay more than the middle-aged, because the driving records prove it.

Most people think this is OK. They have seen married couples cruising safely in their minivans, and they have been cut off by young, male drivers. Rates follow what they have seen.

By the same standard of fairness, people with poor credit records should pay more than people with excellent credit. Here skeptics balk, yet the data is just as strong, perhaps stronger. Credit information is an excellent predictor of future accidents.

This is harder to understand, I think, because we can’t observe it. I can tell a lot about that fellow who just blew past the stop sign – young or old, male or female – but I can’t tell you, just by looking, whether he is late on his mortgage.

I’ve asked actuaries a lot about credit scores and insurance the past few days. They uniformly tell me its predictive power. People with poor credit incur losses at two or three times the rate of people with excellent credit.

What has surprised me is the certainty and reverence of their answers. One told me, in the jargon: “The models have lift; the standard error is low.” (Translation: Driving record deteriorates steadily, predictably, inexorably as credit score does, without a sliver of doubt.)

Like most actuaries, I’ve known these facts for a while. What surprised me was the respect, bordering on awe, with which these actuaries spoke. They seem to feel they were granted a privileged window, observing something few have – something hard to understand without witnessing it, but once witnessed becomes simple and obvious – as Leeuwenhoek may have felt when he found a drop of water teeming with microbial life.

“The math is there,” I was told. “People just can’t believe what they can’t see.”

Most people benefit from credit scoring. Removing it would raise rates for most people and lower it for a few. And those few will cause more than their share of accidents.

Does that sound fair?

Technology is not enough in the fight against cybercrime, effective cybersecurity measures require policy and process changes as well.

That’s the takeaway from an analysis of cyber-risk spending included in the 2015 U.S. State of Cybercrime Survey recently released by PwC.

While cybersecurity budgets are on the rise, companies are mostly reliant on technology solutions to fend off digital adversaries and manage risks.

Among the 500 U.S. executives, security experts and others from public and private sectors responding to the survey, almost half (47 percent) said adding new technologies is a spending priority, higher than all other options.

Notably, only 15 percent cited redesigning processes as a priority and 33 percent prioritized adding new skills and capabilities.

When asked whether they have the expertise to address cyber risks associated with implementation of new technologies, only 26 percent said they have capable personnel on staff. Most rely on a combination of internal and external expertise to address cyber risks of new solutions.

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As PwC advises:

Companies that implement new technologies without updating processes and providing employee training will very likely not realize the full value of their spending. To be truly effective, a cybersecurity program must carefully balance technology capabilities with redesigned processes and staff training skills.”

Employee training and awareness continues to be a critical, but often neglected component of cybersecurity, PwC said. Only half (50 percent) of survey respondents said they conduct periodic security awareness and training programs, and the same number offer security training for new employees.

Some 76 percent of respondents to the survey said they are more concerned about cybersecurity threats this year than in the previous 12 months, up from 59 percent the year before.

As PwC noted, in today’s cybercrime environment, the issue is not whether a business will be compromised, but rather how successful an attack will be.

Check out Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) facts and statistics on cybercrime here.

The percentage of businesses purchasing commercial insurance increased in the second quarter of 2015, according to the latest Commercial P/C Market Index survey from the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers (CIAB).

An overwhelming 90 percent of brokers responding to the survey said that take-up rates had increased, in part as premium savings drove interest in new lines of coverage and/or higher limits.

Cyber liability continues to gain traction, brokers noted, and this trend is expected to continue as the cyber insurance market matures, new insurers, products and capacity come to market and as companies realize the true extent of their cyber exposure.

Broker comments came as The Council’s analysis shows that rates declined across all commercial lines in the second quarter, continuing the downward trend from the first three months of 2015.

Premium rates across all size accounts fell by an average of 3.3 percent compared with a 2.3 percent decrease in the first quarter of 2015.

Large accounts once again saw the steepest drop in prices of 5.2 percent, while medium sized accounts fell 3.5 percent and small accounts fell 1.3 percent.

Commercial property, general liability and workers’ compensation premiums were most frequently reported down across all regions, with a slight uptick in commercial auto.

Ken Crerar, president and CEO of The Council said:

As the soft market continues in 2015, carriers are competing for good risks and are willing to work with brokers on price and terms.”

Meanwhile, average flood insurance rates saw an uptick across all regions, most frequently in the Southeast and Southwest regions, the Council noted.

This increase is likely due to premium increases, assessments, and surcharges, mandated by both the Biggert Waters Act and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA), which went into effect April 1.

Find out more about business insurance from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

As many parts of the United States enter another day of high heat and humidity, we’re reading about the first ever heatwave warning guidelines issued by the United Nations earlier this month.

The guidelines are intended to alert the general public, health services and government agencies via the development of so-called heatwave early warning systems that should ultimately lead to actions that reduce the effects of hot weather extremes on health.

As the foreword to the publication states:

Heatwaves are a dangerous natural hazard, and one that requires increased attention. They lack the spectacular and sudden violence of other hazards, such as tropical cyclones or flash floods, but the consequences can be severe.”

In their joint guidance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) note that heatwaves are becoming more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the length, frequency and intensity of heatwaves will likely increase over most land areas during this century.

Recent world heatwave events come to mind:

Both India and Pakistan were hit by deadly heatwaves in the first half of 2015, leading to 3,600 fatalities, according to Munich Re. Temperatures were exceptional, climbing as high as 47°C and accompanied by high humidity which compounded the effect.

European heatwaves in the summer of 2003 led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, as did the Russian heatwaves, forest fires and associated air pollution in 2010. In fact, the Russian heatwave of 2010 still ranks among the top 10 deadliest world catastrophes 1970-2014.

The UN guidance makes the case that one way to manage the risk of heat-related health effects is through the development of a Heat Health Warning System (HHWS) as part of a broader Heat Health Action Plan (HHAP).

Of primary concern in an HHWS, it notes, is how to assess the level of heat stress associated with the meteorological or climate forecast, translate this into an estimate of a likely health outcome and identify a critical heat-stress threshold for a graded plan of action.

Typically, HHWSs are composed of a number of elements, including:

  • Weather forecasts of high temperatures that may also include humidity;
  • A method for assessing how future weather patterns may evolve in terms of a range of health outcomes;
  • The determination of heat-stress thresholds for action;
  • A system of graded alerts/actions for communication to the general population or specific target groups about an impending period of heat and its intensity and to government agencies about the possible severity of health impacts.

A number of cities and countries around the world have developed these early warning systems, including Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, the United States and Australia.

The first HHWS was actually implemented in the city of Philadelphia in the United States in 1995. In this system, local city staff work with the National Weather Service (NWS) to determine when a heatwave is imminent.

After an alert is issued, the Philadelphia Health Department contacts news organizations with tips on how vulnerable individuals can protect themselves. People without air conditioning are advised to seek relief from the heat in shopping malls, senior centers and other cool spaces.

Friends, relatives, neighbors and other volunteers are also encouraged to make daily visits to elderly people during the hot weather, ensuring the most susceptible individuals have sufficient fluids, proper ventilation and other amenities to cope with the weather.

After the success of Philadelphia, similar tailor-made systems are being implemented for the 50-60 cities in the U.S. with a population of more than 500,000 and a local meteorological office, the guidance notes.

The NWS reports that heat is typically the leading cause of weather-related fatalities each year.

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Check out Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) facts and statistics on drought and heatwaves here.

The number of lightning deaths in the United States in 2015 continues to rise, the National Weather Service (NWS) has warned.

So far this year some 22 lightning fatalities have been recorded, just four shy of the 26 deaths recorded for the whole of 2014.

Alabama, Florida and Colorado top the states for lightning deaths in 2015 to-date with three lightning deaths each.

Lightning kills an average of 49 people in the U.S. each year, and hundreds more are severely injured, according to the NWS.

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While storms can be deadly, the number of insurance claims from lighting strikes in the U.S. has been in a period of steady decline, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Total insured losses from lightning were up 9.7 percent in 2014, though overall incurred losses between 2010 and 2014 are still down 28.5 percent.

An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. and State Farm found there were 99,871 insurer-paid lightning claims in 2014, down 13 percent from 2013. Yet the average lightning paid-claim amount was up 26 percent, from $5,869 in 2013 to $7,400 in 2014.

James Lynch, chief actuary at the I.I.I. noted that since 2010, the number of paid lightning claims is down more than 53 percent:

The sustained decline in the number of claims may be attributed to an increased use of lightning protection systems, technological advances, better lightning protection and awareness of lightning safety—as well as to fewer storms.”

Still, lightning remains a very costly weather-related event. Despite fewer storms, insurers still paid $739 million in lightning claims to nearly 100,000 policyholders in 2014, the I.I.I. notes.

The Lightning Protection Institute offers some useful lightning safety tips here.

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