Category Archives: Catastrophes

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:

London fire renews focus on prevention and safety

Fire safety officials around the world are reinforcing prevention and evacuation guidance to high-rise residents following the deadly 24-story apartment building fire at Grenfell Tower in West London.

So far, at least 17 people are confirmed dead in the fire, while close to 80 are hospitalized. UK prime minister Theresa May has ordered a public inquiry into the blaze. Insurance will play a role in the recovery.

Officials say that while catastrophic fires on the scale of Grenfell Tower are statistically rare, awareness is key.

GlobalNews.ca reports here, NJ.com here, and the Manchester Evening News reports here. USA Today lists the worst high-rise fires in history here.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that the fire death per 1,000 fires and the average loss per fire are generally lower in high-rise buildings than in other buildings of the same property use.

“A major reason why risks are lower is probably the much greater use of fire protection systems and features in high-rise buildings as compared to shorter buildings.”

High-rise buildings are more likely to have fire detection, sprinklers and to be built of fire-resistive construction and are less likely to spread beyond the room or floor of origin than fires in shorter buildings, the NFPA says.

From 2009 to 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 14,500 reported structure fires in high-rise buildings per year.

Five property types account for three-quarters (73 percent) of high-rise fires: apartments or other multi-family housing; hotels; dormitories or dormitory type properties; facilities that care for the sick; and office buildings.

NFPA adds that high-rise buildings present several unique challenges not found in traditional low-rise buildings, including longer egress times and distance, evacuation strategies, fire department accessibility, smoke movement and fire control.

The two deadliest high-rise fires in U.S. history were caused by terrorism: the fires and collapse of the twin towers after two planes flew into the World Trade Center, New York City on September 11, 2001, and the April 19, 2005 truck bomb outside a nine-story federal building in Oklahoma City.

I.I.I. fire statistics are here.

May severe weather: multi-billion dollar insurance payout aids recovery

Severe weather across the United States in May resulted in combined public and private insured losses of at least $3 billion.

Aon Benfield’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap report reveals that central and eastern parts of the U.S. saw extensive damage from large hail, straight-line winds, tornadoes and isolated flash flooding during last month’s storms.

The most prolific event? A May 8 major storm in the greater Denver, Colorado metro region, where damage from softball-sized hail resulted in an insured loss of more than $1.4 billion in the state alone.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on hail here. The National Weather Service has detailed information on severe storm events, including hail, tornadoes and wind. 2016 data on the number of hail events are posted online.

Total aggregated economic losses from U.S. severe weather in May were in excess of $4 billion, Aon Benfield said.

How to protect crops and property from hail

Damage to vineyards following several years of severe hailstorms in the famed wine-growing region of Burgundy, France, is prompting greater prevention efforts.

London’s Daily Telegraph reports that producers are protecting their entire grape harvest with a cloud-seeding system—a hi-tech hail shield that is designed to modify storm clouds and suppress hail formation.

The system works by releasing tiny particles of silver iodide into the clouds where they stop the formation of hail stones, thereby reducing the risk of damage.

Cloud-seeding, or weather modification, has been used for many years in parts of the United States and Canada not just to suppress hail, but to enhance rainfall and snowfall in some cases. Insurers are involved in the research.

This makes sense. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, hail causes approximately $1 billion in damage to crops and property annually.

A monster hailstorm that pounded Colorado’s Front Range on May 8 is on pace to be Colorado’s most expensive insured catastrophe, with an estimated preliminary insured loss of $1.4 billion, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

For auto, home and business owners living in hail-prone areas, taking steps to minimize hail damage to property is essential.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), is continuing a major multi-year research study into hailstorms. IBHS resources on preventing property losses are available here.

Swiss Re: Natural catastrophes: tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires & floods – the story of 2016

On-demand Webinar

Last year, economic losses from Natural Catastrophes nearly doubled to USD 175 billion. Insured losses also jumped from to USD 54 billion from USD 38 billion. These numbers were at their highest since 2012 and mark a reversal from the recent below-average years.

In this webinar, experts from Swiss Re and the Insurance Information Institute review 2016’s global natural catastrophe and man-made disaster losses and explain what they could mean to the insurance industry on Thursday, April 27 from 11 – 12 PM EDT.

Watch this webinar now.

Presentation Date
Thursday, April 27, 2017

Speakers
Dr. Steven N. Weisbart, CLU
Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, Insurance Information Institute

Dr. Thomas Holzheu
US Chief Economist, Swiss Re

Dr. Josh Woodbury
Specialist Flood, Swiss Re

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.

U.S. Thunderstorm Losses Add Up To Q1 Record

Topping $5.7 billion. That’s the record cost of insured losses from severe thunderstorms and convective weather in the United States in the first quarter of 2017.

The latest figures come via Steve Bowen, director and meteorologist at Impact Forecasting, the catastrophe risk modeling center at Aon Benfield.

Here’s the chart (via @SteveBowenWx):

Artemis blog offers this perspective:

“It’s the second year in succession that insurance and reinsurance markets have faced a heavy toll from severe thunderstorm related losses, which in turn means impacts to ILS [insurance-linked securities] funds and investors, as severe convective storm risk is a typical peril of many catastrophe reinsurance arrangements that ILS investments are linked to.

Beyond the first-quarter the expensive run-rate of losses from severe thunderstorms has continued, with some further outbreaks in the last fortnight.”

A recent Willis Re study found thunderstorms were just as costly to insurers as hurricanes.

Check out these resources (here and here) from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety on how to protect your home and business from thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Register here for an April 27 Swiss Re and I.I.I. webinar on natural catastrophes.

I.I.I. facts and statistics on tornadoes and thunderstorms here.

Insurance Payouts Underpin Disaster Recovery Process

Tens of thousands of policyholders caught in a disaster in 2016 were better able to recover from the losses and hardships inflicted thanks to insurance.

Global insured losses from catastrophes totaled around $54 billion in 2016 – the highest level since 2012, according to the latest report from Swiss Re sigma.

North America accounted for more than half the global insured losses in 2016, with insured losses from disaster events reaching $30 billion, the highest of all regions.

This was due to a record number of severe convective storms in the United States and because the level of insurance penetration for such storm risks in the U.S. is high, sigma noted.

For example, a hailstorm that struck Texas in April 2016 resulted in an economic loss of $3.5 billion, of which $3 billion, or 86 percent, was covered by insurance.

“With insurance, many households and businesses benefited from insurance payouts for the heavy damage to their property caused by large hailstones.”

However, insurance cover is not universal. The shortfall in insurance relative to total economic losses from all disaster events—the protection gap—was $121 billion in 2016. See this chart:

“Under-insurance against catastrophe risk is a reality in both advanced and emerging markets, and there is still large opportunity for the industry to help strengthen worldwide resilience.”

For example, Swiss Re noted that the U.S. has been and continues to be critically underinsured for flood risk, with a flood protection gap of around $10 billion annually.

Additional Insurance Information Institute facts and statistics on global catastrophe losses are available here.

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.