Category Archives: Flood Insurance

Private Market Flood Insurance Is Budding

Private carriers are dipping their toes in the turbulent waters of flood insurance, writes Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) research manager Maria Sassian.

This year, for the first time, insurers were required to report in their annual statements data on private flood insurance.

I.I.I. has compiled a list of top insurers in the market by 2016 direct premiums written, based on data from S&P Global Market Intelligence:

As you can see, the top three companies hold almost 81 percent of the market share, and at number one FM Global has a 54 percent market share. Direct premiums written for all companies total $376 million.

Private flood includes both commercial and private residential coverage, primarily first-dollar standalone policies that cover the flood peril and excess flood. It excludes sewer/water backup and the crop flood peril.

Some of the reasons private insurers are becoming more comfortable covering flood risk include: improved flood mapping technology; improved flood modeling; the construction of flood resistant buildings; and encouragement from Congress.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is billions of dollars in debt due to large losses from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Superstorm Sandy. Opening the market to private insurers is one of several measures enacted by lawmakers to get the program out of debt.

Another step in shoring up the NFIP took place with the January 2017 transfer of over $1 billion in financial risk to private reinsurers. FEMA gained the authority to secure reinsurance from the private reinsurance and capital markets through the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 and the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA).

NHC warns on rainfall and flooding from Tropical Storm Cindy

Heavy rainfall due to Tropical Storm Cindy is expected to produce flash flooding across parts of southern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Total rain accumulations of 6 to 9 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches are expected in those areas, the NHC says.

On Tuesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declared a statewide state of emergency in preparation for severe weather and warned residents to be prepared for potential flood conditions.

FEMA flood safety and preparation tips are here.

Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. However, flood coverage is available in the form of a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers.

Insurance Information Institute flood insurance facts and statistics show that the number of flood insurance policies increased in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

Here are the numbers:

Storm surge and flooding top of minds this hurricane season

Nearly 6.9 million homes along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts have the potential for storm surge damage with a total estimated reconstruction cost value (RCV) of more than $1.5 trillion.

But it’s the location of future storms that will be integral to understanding the potential for catastrophic damage, according to CoreLogic’s 2017 storm surge analysis.

That’s because some 67.3 percent of the 6.9 million at-risk homes and 68.6 percent of the more than $1.5 trillion total RCV is located within 15 major metropolitan areas.

“A low intensity storm in a population dense, residential urban area has the ability to do significantly more damage than a higher intensity hurricane along a sparsely inhabited coastline.”

The metro area that includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach continues to have the greatest number of at-risk homes (784,000) and an RCV of $143 billion.

On the other hand, the New York metro area has slightly fewer homes at risk (723,000), but a much higher RCV of $264 billion due to high construction costs and home values in this area.

CoreLogic’s analysis also shows local areas along the coasts are susceptible to potential damage that could exceed $1 billion for a single event.

Storm surge and other flooding is on the minds of many in 2017 as Congress considers reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), CoreLogic says.

Flooding Events May Shift Prevention Strategies

Hurricane season has yet to begin and already record-setting flooding in parts of the central United States will likely become the country’s sixth billion-dollar disaster event of 2017.

While Missouri and Arkansas have been hit the hardest, recent flooding in the central U.S. has been widespread and it will likely take weeks before the full extent of flood damages is known.

So far, 2017 has seen five billion-dollar disaster events, including one flooding event, one freeze event, and 3 severe storm events, according to NOAA.

KSGF.com: “This year is off to a quick start for the number of billion-dollar weather disasters, similar to 2016 and 2011, which each had 15 and 16 disasters, respectively.”

Climate Central reports that many communities across the U.S. are not prepared for massive rain events and living behind a levee is not an absolute guarantee of protection.

“The growing realization of the lingering risk from levees is causing some rethinking of flood protection strategies in riverfront communities. This can include simply setting levees back from the risk and installing parkland that is intended to flood and provide rain-swollen rivers some breathing space, as well as preventing development in flood-prone areas.”

Last week’s breach of the local levee system in Pocahontas, Arkansas is a good example. Check out these aerial pics via the Capital Weather Gang.

Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. However, flood coverage is available in the form of a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers.

I.I.I. facts and statistics on flood insurance has additional information.

Cyclone Debbie: Storm Surge Biggest Threat

More than 30,000 people in low-lying coastal areas have been urged to evacuate their homes ahead of powerful Cyclone Debbie, as it bears down on the Queensland coast in northeastern Australia.

With landfall expected early Tuesday, Cyclone Debbie is currently a Category 4 storm and could intensify to Category 5. A Category 4 storm on the Australian scale equates to wind gusts of more than 140 miles per hour, the New York Times said.

Storm surge poses the biggest threat as the cyclone strengthens, according to major weather forecasters and news outlets.

The Sydney Morning Herald: Cyclone Yasi, which struck north Queensland in 2011, powered a storm surge that reached 7.5 metres between Cardwell and Tully Heads, akin to a tsunami, said David King, the director of the Centre for Disaster Studies at James Cook University in Townsville.

The New York Times: “People living in coastal or low-lying areas prone to flooding should follow the advice of local emergency services and relocate while there is time,” said Bruce Gunn, the regional director of Queensland’s bureau of meteorology. 

The warnings are a good reminder that while we may think of destructive winds as the biggest danger in a cyclone or hurricane, storm surge is often more deadly.

Here in the U.S. the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this hurricane season will use a storm surge watch/warning system to highlight areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts that are at risk of life-threatening inundation.

The new tool will alert residents to the risks of rising water and the need to evacuate, the Tampa Bay blog said.

A 2016 updated study by CoreLogic found that more than 6.8 million homes located along both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States are at risk of damage caused by hurricane-driven storm surge flooding. More on storm surge risk via the Insurance Information Institute facts and statistics on flood insurance.

Spring-Ready With Flood Insurance

It’s the first day of Spring and here in New Jersey we’re expecting a balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Rising temperatures + snowmelt = flooding.

NOAA’s Spring Outlook calls for moderate to major flooding in northern North Dakota and in the Snake River basin in Idaho and flags California, which saw extensive flooding in February, as susceptible to additional flooding in the coming weeks.

Spring also marks the start of severe weather season for many states. Resources on severe weather preparedness are available at the Insurance Information Institute ( I.I.I.) website and weather.gov.

Which brings us to this:

Many homeowners incorrectly believe that flooding is covered by standard homeowners insurance, according to the I.I.I. Consumer Insurance Survey.

In fact, flood insurance is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a few private insurance companies.

How to change the misperception?

Part of the answer lies in education, as the I.I.I. says:

“Consumers can—and should—educate themselves about their coverage, recognize that they may have gaps in their coverage and seek guidance from an insurance professional when they purchase or renew a policy.”

The other part of the challenge, as outlined by Wharton professor Howard Kunreuther in an issue brief, lies in how to communicate to people that the best return on an insurance policy is no return at all.

“In reality, insurance is a protective measure should one suffer a loss. Homeowners should celebrate not having a loss because the financial consequences for an uninsured individual could be staggering.”

What do you think?

What Does Private Market Flood Insurance Look Like?

In his second post from the Cat Risk Management 2017 conference, Insurance Information Institute chief actuary James Lynch discusses private market flood insurance options:

Florida has opened its market to private flood insurance, and there has been some activity in that area. Most plans have been National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) clones in that they mimic how the NFIP prices risk but introduce a lot of underwriting rules to try to avoid problem risks.

Other than mimicking the NFIP program, there are two alternative ways to price risk:

    • Develop a refined rating plan, which resembles (to me at least) a traditional classification plan. The company develops a base rate then credits and debits a risk based on factors like:
      • Elevation.
      • Relative elevation (whether a risk is higher or lower than the areas that immediately surround it).
      • Distance to coast.
      • Distance to river.
    • Use a sophisticated catastrophe model to price each risk individually. That approach is more precise, but it could be more difficult to pass regulatory approval.  (The model might be too much of a black box.) It could also be harder for agents to understand the model and explain it to clients.

Much of the industry long-term seems interested in how computer models can price flood risk, but most people recognize the challenges. A big one is how to build in the precision necessary.

Figuring out how far a property is from a river is easy. But it is hard to use Big Data techniques to determine something as simple as whether a property has a basement; let alone knowing the elevation of the lowest vulnerable point in a property. (Hint: It’s probably not the front threshold.)

Private Market Looks Closely At Flood Insurance

Almost all private insurers have shunned covering flood since the 1950s, but that could be changing fast, writes Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) chief actuary James Lynch:

At the Cat Risk Management 2017 conference I attended earlier this month, flood was the hottest topic. Here’s why:

  • Insurers have become increasingly comfortable with using sophisticated models to underwrite insurance risk, and modeling firms are getting better at predicting flood risk.
  • The federal government, which insures the vast majority of flood risk, is looking for ways to share the risk with private industry. Key reasons:
    • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) owes the Treasury more than $20 billion (thanks to flooding from Hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy). It has no practical way to pay that back, and the government has made it clear that it doesn’t want to fund more losses. So the NFIP is purchasing private reinsurance. More on that below.
    • The number of people who lack flood insurance is distressingly high. I.I.I. surveys show that only about 12 percent of Americans have flood insurance. The government wants people to be protected, and encouraging a private flood insurance market could do that.

Here are some of my notes from #catrisk17 on flood insurance:

  • The NFIP reinsurance deal (effective January 1, 2017) means that reinsurance would reimburse NFIP for 26 percent of the losses from an event where losses exceed $4 billion. The maximum recovery is $1.046 billion, and the cost, according to my notes, is $150 million. (If you work in reinsurance it may be easier to think of the pricing this way: NFIP cedes 26 percent of the $4 billion excess $4 billion occurrence layer at a 14.3 percent rate on line.) There have only been a couple of floods that big in NFIP history (Hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy), so the cover is in place primarily to protect against storm surge. However, it would cover other major types of flood as well.
  • A significant obstacle to modeling flood risk is the fact that much of the most important data (underwriting and claims information) is in the federal government’s hands. The government wants to share the data responsibly, but its hands are tied by federal rules on sharing data about individuals. The rules are driven both by privacy concerns and cyber security laws. The government will likely be developing a certification process so that professionals could qualify to have access to the data on a limited basis.
  • A live poll found that flood modeling was the most important topic at the conference, cited by 56 percent of respondents – outpacing severe convective (thunder) storm models, cyber insurance models or terrorism models.

Hurricane Matthew: Storm Surge Risk

Almost 2 million homes in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia are at risk of storm surge damage from Hurricane Matthew with an estimated $405 billion in total reconstruction cost value, according to new analysis from CoreLogic.

Here’s the CoreLogic graphic showing the total number and value of residential properties at risk of storm surge damage from Hurricane Matthew by state:

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The estimates come as Hurricane Matthew, still a major Category 3 storm packing 120 mph winds, continues its northward trek brushing along Florida’s northeast coast Friday, with its eye remaining just offshore.

In its latest advisory, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that Matthew is expected to remain a hurricane until it begins to move away from the U.S. on Sunday, though it is forecast to weaken during the next 48 hours.

A hurricane warning now stretches as far as Surf City, North Carolina.

The NHC said:

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge, the tide and large and destructive waves will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.”

And:

“There is a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 36 hours along the Florida northeast coast, the Georgia coast, the South Carolina coast, and the North Carolina coast from Sebastian Inlet, Florida, to Cape Fear, North Carolina. There is the possibility of life-threatening inundation during the next 48 hours from north of Cape Fear to Salvo, North Carolina.”

Here’s the 11am NHC prototype storm surge watch/warning graphic, showing locations most at risk for life-threatening inundation from storm surge extend from Florida to North Carolina:

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It’s important to note that flood damage resulting from heavy rain, storm surge and hurricanes is excluded under standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies.

Separate flood coverage is available, however, from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers.

Flood damage to cars would be covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

The NHC has a storm surge inundation map which means anyone living in hurricane-prone coastal areas along the U.S. East and Gulf coasts can now check out and evaluate their own unique risk to storm surge.

Insurance Information Institute experts are available to discuss the insurance implications of Hurricane Matthew.

Check out the I.I.I. facts and statistics on flood insurance.

Hawaii, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina Prepare for Storms

With numerous tropical systems in the Atlantic and two major hurricanes (Madeline and Lester) threatening Hawaii in the Pacific, insurers are keeping a close watch to see how things develop.

Over at Wunderblog, Dr. Jeff Masters observes that the dual scenario of two major hurricanes heading towards Hawaii is unprecedented in hurricane record keeping.

Hurricane Madeline, the closer of the two to Hawaii, intensified rapidly, growing from tropical storm to Category 3 strength in just 24 hours, Dr. Masters notes, and has since intensified to Category 4.

While the forecast models are not conclusive on the exact tracks and intensity of these named storms, it’s clear that both Hurricane Madeline and Hurricane Lester could affect Hawaii with high surf, torrential rain, and potential winds over the next week.

Hawaii’s costliest hurricane, based on insured property losses, was Hurricane Iniki in September 1992. Iniki caused $1.6 billion in damage when it occurred, or $2.7 billion in 2014 dollars, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Check out the I.I.I.’s Hawaii Hurricane Insurance Fact File for more information, including the top writers of homeowners, commercial and auto insurance.

Meanwhile, on the U.S. Atlantic coast, a tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast of North Carolina from Cape Lookout to Oregon Inlet for tropical depression eight.

A second system—tropical depression nine— is also being closely watched in the Gulf of Mexico. In its latest public advisory, the National Hurricane Center says the system is set to strengthen and that interests in central and northern Florida, and southeastern Georgia should monitor its progress.

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I.I.I.’s Florida insurance representative Lynne McChristian offers some sound advice on making sure your property insurance is ready for named storms in her latest blog post.

Take a look at I.I.I.’s North Carolina Hurricane Insurance Fact File, Georgia Hurricane Insurance Fact File, and Florida Hurricane Fact File for more information.