A new study from NOAA reminds us that as sea levels rise, it no longer takes a strong storm or hurricane to lead to flooding.

So-called “nuisance flooding” – which results in public inconveniences such as frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm drains and compromised infrastructures – has increased on all three U.S. coasts by between 300 and 925 percent since the 1960s, according to NOAA.

Eight of the top 10 U.S. cities that have seen an increase in nuisance flooding are on the East Coast.

Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland, lead the list with an increase in number of flood days of more than 920 percent since 1960.

New Jersey’s Atlantic City and Sandy Hook also made the top five with an increase in flood days of more than 600 percent, NOAA reports.

Port Isabel, Texas, along the Gulf coast, showed an increase of 547 percent, and nuisance flood days in San Francisco, California, increased by 364 percent.


Dr. William Sweet, oceanographer at NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) and the report’s lead author notes:

Flooding now occurs with high tides in many locations due to climate-related sea level rise, land subsidence and the loss of natural barriers. The effects of rising sea levels along most of the continental U.S. coastline are only going to become more noticeable and much more severe in the coming decades, probably more so than any other climate-change related factor.”

Scientists took data from 45 NOAA water level gauges with long data records around the country and compared that to reports of number of days of nuisance floods.

The study defines nuisance flooding as a daily rise in water level above the minor flooding threshold set locally by NOAA’s National Weather Service, and focused on coastal areas at or below these levels that are especially susceptible to flooding.

NOAA concludes that any acceleration in sea level rise that is predicted to occur this century will further intensify the impact of nuisance flooding over time, and will further reduce the time between flood events.

It also warns that while event frequencies are accelerating at many U.S. East and Gulf coast gauges, many other locations will soon follow regardless of whether there is an acceleration in relative sea level rise.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on flood insurance and climate change and insurance.

Global fatalities from acts of terrorism jumped by 30 percent in the last year even as the number of attacks decreased, according to a new interactive mapping platform from risk analytics firm Maplecroft.

Some 18,668 terrorism fatalities were recorded in the 12 months prior to July 1, up 29.3 percent from an annual average of 14,433 for the previous five years.

Over the same period there were some 9,471 global terrorism attacks at an average of 26 a day, down from a five-year average of 10,468. This indicates that terrorist methods have become increasingly deadly over the last year, Maplecroft said.

Nigeria recorded by far the highest number of fatalities per attack, with 146 reported attacks in the last year resulting in 3,477 fatalities – an average of 24 fatalities per attack (compared to 2 fatalities per attack in Iraq).

Iraq recorded the highest number of attacks, with 3,158 acts of terrorism resulting in 5,929 fatalities.

China, Egypt, Kenya and Libya are seeing the most significant increases in the risks of terrorist attacks, the Maplecroft Terrorism and Security Dashboard (MTSD) reveals.

The MTSD classifies 12 countries as ‘extreme risk,’ including: Iraq (most at risk), Afghanistan (2nd), Pakistan (3rd), Somalia (4th), Yemen (6th), Syria (7th), Lebanon (9th) and Libya (10th). Many of these countries are blighted by high levels of instability and weak governance, Maplecroft notes.

However, of particular concern for investors, the important growth economies of Nigeria (5th), the Philippines (8th), Colombia (11th) and Kenya (12th) also feature in the category.

Jordan Perry, a principal political risk analyst at Maplecroft says:

Libya, Kenya and Egypt are among a handful of countries to witness a significant increase in risk in the MTSD and investor confidence in key sectors, including tourism and oil and gas, has been hurt. When faced with rising security costs and decreasing safety for their personnel, companies can, and do, reconsider their country-level commitments.”

The MTSD logs, analyzes and plots all reported incidents of terrorism, piracy, political violence and human rights abuses by security forces down to 100m² worldwide. It also draws on Maplecroft’s seven years of global data to reveal terrorism and security trends across 197 countries.

Maplecroft CEO Alyson Warhurst makes the important point that the dynamic nature of terrorism means individual events are impossible to predict, but the information included in the MTSD can help organizations make informed decisions relating to market entry, security measures for in-country operations, duty of care obligations, supply chain continuity and risk pricing.

Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on terrorism risk.

No industry sector is immune from cyber threats, and a round-up of recent headlines and reports underscores the increasing risk and cost businesses face.

Just this week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urged financial institutions and firms to redouble their efforts against cyber threats and said information-sharing and collaboration among businesses and with government is key.

Speaking at a conference in New York, Secretary Lew noted that the consequences of cyber incidents are serious and our cyber defenses are not yet where they need to be:

Far too many hedge funds, asset managers, insurance providers, exchanges, financial market utilities, and banks should and could be doing more. In particular, it is imperative that firms collaborate with government agencies and with other firms. Disclosing security breaches is often perceived as something that could harm a firm’s reputation. This has made many businesses reluctant to reveal information about cyber incidents. But this reluctance has to be put aside.”

Secretary Lew noted that some banks are already spending as much as $250 million a year to strengthen their cyber security. (Note: this is a cost borne by businesses).

Meanwhile, a new report from the New York attorney general’s office revealed that the number of reported data security breaches in the state more than tripled between 2006 and 2013, with some 22.8 million personal records of New Yorkers exposed in nearly 5,000 data breaches.

The cost to the public and private sectors in New York? In 2013 alone, upward of $1.37 billion, according to the report’s findings.

The Insurance Information Institute’s (I.I.I.) newly updated report Cyber Risks: The Growing Threat (of which I am a co-author) sheds light on the specialist cyber insurance policies developed by insurers to help businesses and individuals protect themselves from the cyber threat.

Market intelligence suggests that the types of specialized cyber coverage being offered by insurers are expanding rapidly in response to this fast-growing market need.

I.I.I. facts and stats on identity theft and cyber security are available here.

Commercial insurance rates in the United States slipped to plus 2 percent in June 2014 from plus 3 percent in May, according to latest analysis from online insurance exchange MarketScout.

Richard Kerr, CEO of MarketScout, said:

The commercial market continues to adjust downward as a result of improved underwriting results and an abundance of capacity. In the aggregate, rates are still up slightly but the trend for rate moderation continues.”

By coverage class, umbrella, workers’ compensation, D&O, and EPLI all moderated from the prior month with each registering a plus 1 percent rate increase.

Workers’ compensation rates slipped the most from plus 3 percent in May to plus 1 percent in June.

By account size, small (up to $25,000) and medium accounts ($25,001 up to $250,000) remained at plus 3 percent. Large accounts ($250,001 to $1 million) slipped from plus 2 percent to plus 1 percent and jumbo accounts (over $1 million) were up 0 percent or flat.

Kerr noted that this is the first plus 0 percent measurement since the market turned towards rate increases in November 2011:

It’s not surprising the jumbo accounts have gone flat as the name brand account continues to allure underwriters despite the lower ROE. There is a pricing benefit to being a name brand, Fortune 1000 insurance buyer.”

By industry class, manufacturing, transportation and energy all adjusted their month-over-month rate increases downward by 1 percent.

Check out latest information from the I.I.I. on financial results and market conditions.

Some 6.5 million U.S. homes with a total reconstruction value of nearly $1.5 trillion are at risk of damage from hurricane-driven storm surge, and more than $986 billion of that risk is concentrated in 15 metro areas, according to an annual report by CoreLogic.

The 2014 analysis by CoreLogic found that by state, Florida ranks number one for the number of homes at risk, with nearly 2.5 million homes and $490 billion in total projected reconstruction costs.

At the local level the New York metropolitan area (including northern New Jersey and Long Island) contains not only the most number of homes at risk for potential storm surge damage (687,412), but also the highest total reconstruction value of residential homes exposed, at more than $251 billion.

Ranked second among the major metropolitan areas at risk is Miami, Florida with 562,410 homes exposed and a total reconstruction value of $103.2 billion, followed by Tampa, Florida with 444,765 homes at risk and a total reconstruction value of $79.1 billion.

CoreLogic makes the point that just one storm of sufficient intensity occurring in or near one of the major metropolitan areas in the report is all that would be needed to cause tens of billions in property damage:

Past hurricane seasons have demonstrated the impact that just one storm of sufficient severity, located in exactly the wrong place, can achieve. Andrew, Katrina, and finally Sandy are still reminders that it takes no more than one hurricane roaring through a metropolitan and densely populated area to cause widespread property damage and threaten lives.”

CoreLogic goes on to explain that extensive regions along both the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts are vulnerable to storm surge, and yet many of the homeowners who live in these areas are not required to carry flood insurance because they are not located within a designated FEMA 100-year floodplain.

Since standard homeowners insurance excludes flood losses from either fresh or salt water, homeowners who are not located in FEMA Special Flood Hazard Areas, but are in high-risk surge zones, often do not consider buying National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) coverage for their properties.”

Sporting organizations around the world and their liability insurers have to be keeping a close eye on the latest developments in a multi-million dollar settlement which will see the National Football League (NFL) pay out an uncapped amount to compensate retired football players suffering from certain severe concussion-related neurological conditions.

A federal judge approved the preliminary revised settlement yesterday after the original $765 million settlement proposed by the NFL was rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody in January over concerns that the amount would not be enough to cover the claims from more than 20,000 retired players over the 65-year life of the settlement.

Concerns have been growing over the risks of sports-related concussions in recent years since the filing of the first lawsuits by injured professional football players against the NFL in 2011.

Young people participating in a range of sports including soccer, basketball and ice hockey are also affected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 173,285 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including concussions, among children and adolescents are treated in U.S. emergency rooms annually.

The New York Times reports that despite being uncapped, the new settlement does allow the NFL to contest an unlimited number of requests for awards by retired players as a way to prevent fraudulent claims.

Retired players will receive packets explaining the terms of the settlement over the coming weeks and players will be deemed to be in favor of the deal unless they opt out, which would preserve their legal rights, the NYT says. They can also object to parts of the deal.

A fairness hearing on the settlement is scheduled for November 19 in Philadelphia.

The settlement provides for a $75 million baseline assessment program that will offer all retired NFL players baseline neuropsychological and neurological evaluations to determine the existence and extent of any cognitive defects.

The 65-year monetary award fund will award cash to retired NFL players who already have a qualifying diagnosis or receive one in the future.

The court order details potential awards for qualifying diagnoses of up to $3.5 million for neurocognitive impairment, $3.5 million for Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, $5 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and $4 million for players who die with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The awards may be reduced based on a retired player’s age at the time of diagnosis, the number of NFL seasons played, and other offsets outlined in the settlement.

Business Insurance reports that the settlement approval notes that players who receive awards from the NFL fund are not required to release claims against the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) or any other amateur football organizations for concussion claims.

A 2013 article by then National Underwriter reporter Chad Hemenway provides invaluable insight into sports-related traumatic brain injuries and how the legal fallout may change the way sports are insured.

Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on sports injuries.

June is Pride month so it’s time for our annual round-up of the latest LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) insurance news.

Corporate Equality: A record 304 businesses, including 16 insurers scored 100 percent in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2014 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) based on their LGBT workplace policies, benefits and practices. The number of insurers achieving the top ranking has seen a steady increase over the last decade, going from zero in 2002, to 10 in 2008 and 16 in 2014. A total of 734 businesses were rated in the 2014 CEI. This year marks the first time in history that over 60 percent of the Fortune 500 include both sexual orientation and gender identity protections.

LGBT Marketing: There’s been a surge of marketing directed at LGBT consumers – and with good reason. The total buying power of the LGBT adult population in the U.S. for 2013 was projected at $830 billion, according to a November analysis by Witeck Communications. But it’s not just LGBT consumers who respond to this advertising. Some 70 percent of non-LGBT adults are likely to consider a brand known to provide equal workplace benefits, Harris Interactive and Witeck Communications found. Just a few weeks ago, insurer Allstate launched its “Out Holding Hands” program, to encourage members of the LGBT community to share special and everyday moments out holding hands with their loved ones. Allstate teamed up with singer-songwriter Eli Lieb to create a video that illustrates the company’s belief that everyone should be treated with respect and without judgment no matter who they love. The video can be viewed on Allstate.com/LGBT.

Allstate’s campaign is certainly eye-catching. On a recent trip to Asbury Park, New Jersey, we couldn’t miss this billboard:

Why are some countries more resistant to supply chain disruption or better able to bounce back?

According to Margareta Wahlström, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction, this is a puzzle that world leaders are perpetually trying to solve.

Hence the inherent value in a new online interactive tool from FM Global that ranks countries by supply chain resilience.

The 2014 FM Global Resilience Index ranks the business resilience of 130 countries around the world.

Nine key drivers of supply chain risk are grouped into three categories: economic, risk quality and supply chain factors. These combine to form the composite index. Scores are bound on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 representing the lowest resilience and 100 the highest resilience.

Jonathan Hall, executive vice president, FM Global, explains:

Natural disasters, political unrest and a lack of global uniformity in safety codes and standards all can have an impact on business continuity, competitiveness and reputation. As supply chains become more global, complex and interdependent, it is essential for decision makers to have concrete facts and intelligence about where their facilities and their suppliers’ facilities are located.”

So which countries rank at the top of the index?

According to FM Global, Norway (score: 100), Switzerland (score: 98.9) and Canada (score: 93.2) are the top three countries most resilient to supply chain disruption.

At the other end of the scale, the index finds Kyrgyzstan (score: 6), Venezuela (score: 2.5) and the Dominican Republic (score: 0) as the countries least resilient to supply chain disruption.

Where did the United States fall?

Because of its geographic spread and disparate exposures to natural hazards, the U.S. is divided into three separate regions. All three rank in the top 25.

You might also be interested to know that China (also divided into three separate regions) ranks in the top 75. China’s weakest region includes Shanghai and ranks particularly low as a result of poor risk quality due to acute natural hazards.

Another key takeaway is the biggest riser: Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country climbed 19 places from last year, due to improvements in its political risk and in the quality of local suppliers.

And one of the top fallers in the 2014 Index is Bangladesh, with FM Global citing declining quality of both natural hazard risk management and fire risk management.

FM Global commissioned analytics and advisory firm Oxford Metrica to develop the rankings. The index allows you to browse country rankings and scores from 2011 to 2014.

American businesses lose an average of 2.8 million work days each year due to unplanned absences, costing employers more than $74 billion, so it’s with interest that we read of a significant increase in absence due to obesity and skin cancer in a just released study by Cigna.

According to Cigna’s analysis of 20 years of short-term disability claims, claims related to obesity increased by 3,300 percent between 1993 and 2012.

In 1993, obesity ranked 173 out of 267 diagnostic drivers of absence, accounting for 0.04 percent of claims that year. By 2012, obesity had jumped 133 places to number 40 on the list, accounting for 0.70 percent of claims.

Hat tip to Business Insurance which reports on this story here.

Cigna also reports that new claims and absence related to skin cancer increased more than 300 percent in the 20-year period.

Between 1993 and 2012, skin cancer jumped from 91 to 27 on the list of diagnostic drivers of absence, and its share of claims had increased to 0.9 percent in 2012, up from 0.2 percent in 1993.

The analysis also shows a 45 percent increase in work absence due to the surgical treatment of herniated discs, the most significant increase in short-term disability claims among sedentary occupations over the 1993 to 2012 period.

Cigna notes that the most frequently approved short-term disability claims both 20 years ago and today, remain musculoskeletal disorders, which make up 25 percent of all non-maternity absence.

In a press release, Dr Robert Anfield, chief medical officer for Cigna’s disability insurance unit says:

The aging workforce and a trend towards growing waistlines has made some medical conditions more dominant factors for short-term disabilities than they were 20 years ago. For example, arthritis and tendonitis-related absences have both increased more than 50 percent since 1993.”

However, the study found significant changes in short-term disability rates for obesity, cancer, depression and herniated discs that uncover the impact of medical advances on absence and productivity.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on disability.

Check out an I.I.I. study on obesity, liability and insurance here.

Multiple outbreaks of severe weather led to a costly month for insurers in the United States in May, as thunderstorm events continued to dominate the catastrophe record.

According to the latest Global Catastrophe Recap report by Aon Benfield’s Impact Forecasting, no fewer than four stretches of severe weather affected the U.S. during the month of May.

Aggregate insured losses exceeded $2.2 billion and overall economic losses were at least $3.5 billion, with large hail and damaging winds the primary driver of the thunderstorm-related costs, Impact Forecasting reports.

The costliest stretch occurred during a five-day period (May 18-23) which saw damage incurred in parts of the Midwest, Plains, Rockies, Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, including the major metropolitan areas of Chicago, IL and Denver, CO.

According to Impact Forecasting’s report, baseball-sized hail and straight-line winds gusting in excess of 70 mph (110 kph) were recorded that severely affected residential, commercial and auto interests. Total economic losses were estimated at $2.5 billion, with insurers reporting losses minimally at $1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, the combination of excessive heat, extreme drought conditions, low relative humidity and gusty winds led to dozens of wildfires across parts of the Texas Panhandle and Southern California, leaving two dead.

Overall fire costs/damages from the two states approached $100 million, according to Impact Forecasting.

In Texas the most significant fire was in Hutchinson Country, where at least 225 homes and 143 unoccupied structures were damaged or destroyed.

In California, at least 14 fires were ignited in the greater San Diego metropolitan region, including the Poinsettia Fire that destroyed eight homes, an 18-unit condominium complex, and two commercial buildings.

The report adds that through the end of May, tornado activity in the U.S. remained in the bottom 25th percentile of all years dating to the early 1950s.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on thunderstorms.

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