Category Archives: Catastrophes

What if a Hurricane the Size of Andrew Hit Miami?

It’s been nearly 25 years since Hurricane Andrew devastated southern Florida. More than 25,000 homes were destroyed and another 100,000 damaged. At the time, Andrew was the costliest disaster in U.S. history, one that led to a major overhaul of building codes in Florida.

As the anniversary of the monstrous storm approaches, Swiss Re has released a report called Hurricane Andrew: The 20 miles that saved Miami. The report speculates what would happen if an Andrew size storm hit Florida today and if a present-day Andrew made landfall in Miami, or 20 miles north of its original landfall.

Since 1992, Miami-Dade County has population growth of more than 35 percent and huge growth in property values and asset concentration.  The same storm today could cause an estimated economic loss between $80 billion and $100 billion, of which only $50 billion to $60 billion would be covered by insurance, leaving a significant shortfall to be made up by taxpayers and governments.

If a present-day Category 5 hurricane made landfall 20 miles north of Andrew’s historical landfall location, putting its eye directly over Miami, losses could be between $100 and $300 billion.

Why year-round storm preparations are key

From Dr. Jeff Masters at Wunderground’s Cat 6 blog:

“Tropical Storm Emily was making landfall just south of Tampa Bay, Florida late Monday morning after spinning into life on Monday morning at 8 am EDT just off the Gulf Coast of Florida.”

And:

“Emily formed so quickly and unexpectedly that the Hurricane Hunters never flew into the storm. It is very unusual for a named storm to make landfall in the U.S. without the Hurricane Hunters ever sampling the storm.”

Emily is expected to move inland this afternoon and across central Florida tonight.

A good example of why preparation for tropical storms, hurricanes and other severe weather needs to be a year-round priority.

Check out FEMA’s https://www.ready.gov

At 11:45 a.m. EDT (1545 UTC) NOAA’s GOES-East satellite captured a visible image of Emily:

“London Calling…”

I.I.I.’s James Ballot, Senior Director of Marketing and Content Strategy, contributes these highlights from the IIS Global Forum 2017.

Established millennia ago and since visited continually by perils ranging from fire, flood, pestilence, civil unrest and wave upon wave of attacking foreign enemies, it’s no great stretch to call London the de-facto global headquarters of resilience. So it’s fitting that London should host this year’s International Insurance Society’s (IIS) Global Insurance Forum (GIF), given that the event’s focus was set squarely on Global Resilience and the Role of Insurance.

At the Forum more than 500 delegates and other attendees gathered to set a truly global agenda for how insurance and other parties–NGOs, policymakers, businesses, educational institutions, the media, among others—will respond to challenges ranging from political instability to cyberthreats to the need to create the right talent infrastructure to master the technological changes presently shaping our industry to innovating ways to address threats posed by intensifying natural catastrophe cycles.

Among the highlights:

  • A video address from HRH The Prince of Wales to open the Day 3 Insurance Development Forum (IDF) in which he outlines four key areas where insurance can assume leadership in fostering resilience.
  • Wide-ranging discussions of the “insurance gap” and how narrowing it is essential to building financial resilience against cyberattacks, as well as mitigating uninsured natural catastrophe losses among vulnerable populations in developing nations.
  • The Nature Conservancy, a top-line partner at this year’s GIF, introduced an innovative insurance product underwritten by Swiss Re that insures coral reefs and other natural coastal fortifications.
  • Insurtech and emerging innovations are changing the business—mostly by creating a climate in which, as one insurance fund capital manager asserted, insurance and tech startups can partner to help make “yesterday’s risks insurable today.”

A lot to cover in a single posting, to be sure. For a deeper dive into the goings-on at IIS Global Forum, Asia Insurance Review (AIR) offers gavel-to-gavel coverage of the event, as well as valuable insights from Forum participants.

 

 

Cyber protection gap akin to nat cat

FedEx Corp has disclosed in a securities filing that its international delivery business, TNT Express BV, was significantly affected by the June 27 Petya cyberattack.

Apparently, the courier company did not have cyber insurance or any other insurance that would cover losses from Petya, according to this report by The Wall Street Journal, via the I.I.I. Daily.

A new emerging risk report from Lloyd’s and risk modeling firm Cyence notes that cyberattacks have the potential to trigger billions of dollars of insured losses, yet there is a massive underinsurance gap.

Take its first modeled scenario: a cloud service provider hack. The event produced a range of insured losses from $620 million for a large loss to $8.1 billion for an extreme loss (overall losses ranged from $4.6 billion to $53 billion).

This left an insurance protection gap of between $4 billion (large loss) and $45 billion (extreme loss), so between 87 percent and 83 percent of the overall losses respectively were uninsured.

In another modeled scenario, the mass vulnerability attack, the underinsurance gap is between $9 billion for a large loss and $26 billion for an extreme loss, meaning that just 7 percent of economic losses are covered by insurance.

From the report:

“In some ways, the cyber insurance market can be considered in the same light as underinsurance in the natural catastrophe space – risks are growing and insurance penetration figures are low.”

High rise fire risk in Asia

Insurance Information Institute research assistant Brent Carris authors today’s post:

In Gen Re’s Property Matters series, Tom Qiu reports that with the super high rise (SHR) construction rate growing each year, there is potential for large scale loss of life and significant property/casualty claims.

Per the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Year in Review: Asia recorded 107 of the 128, or 84% of the completed high rise constructions for 2016. China alone, accounted for 84 (67%) of the global total.

Incidents like the Grenfell Tower fire this year in London (see our prior post) and Address Downtown hotel fire of 2015 in Dubai, remind us of the fire risk and resulting huge claims surrounding high rises.

In order to properly rate SHR buildings, underwriters must carefully assess technical survey reports along with visual inspections. In addition to underwriting risks, claims management can be very difficult due to the numerous types of policies involved in a SHR building fire.

Private market flood insurance is cheaper in many cases

Alongside the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a thriving private flood insurance market would provide wider and in many cases cheaper coverage options, according to a new study.

Consulting firm Milliman, in partnership with risk modeler KatRisk, looked at three states – Florida, Texas, and Louisiana – which combined account for 56 percent of NFIP insurance policies in-force nationwide.

Its analysis compared modeled private flood insurance premiums to those of the NFIP.

Key findings:

  • Some 77 percent of single-family homes in Florida, 69 percent in Louisiana, and 92 percent in Texas could see cheaper premiums with private insurance than with the NFIP.
  • Of the homes modeled, 44 percent in Florida, 42 percent in Louisiana and 70 percent in Texas, could see premiums that are less than one-fifth that of the NFIP.
  • Conversely, private insurance would cost over twice the NFIP premiums for 14 percent of single-family homes in Florida, 21 percent in Louisiana and 5 percent in Texas.

prior post discussed how private carriers are dipping their toes in the flood insurance market.

Property losses from severe convective storms spark focus on resilience

More than $14 billion. That’s the expected insured loss from severe convective storms, thunderstorms, tornadoes, large hail and associated damaging winds in the United States in the first six months of this year.

From the Artemis blog, via Impact Forecasting, the catastrophe risk modeling center at Aon Benfield:

“The insurance and reinsurance industry faces more than $14 billion of losses after the first-half severe storm activity in the U.S., while the economic loss is set for $22 billion or higher, putting 2017 as the fourth most costly year for both economic and insured losses due to convective weather activity.”

Check out the U.S. tornado count, 2017 from NOAA:

An important message on building resilience from Munich Re, as reported by Business Insurance:

“Munich Reinsurance America Inc. has released a tornado virtual reality experience tool to highlight the risks posed by tornadoes and the importance of embracing resiliency in building construction to help reduce future property losses.”

And:

Many building codes in the United States do not require a home to withstand more than a 90-mph gust of wind for three seconds, which is the equivalent of a weak EF1 tornado with wind speeds between 86 to 110 miles per hour.

Get Insurance Information Institute facts and statistics on tornadoes and thunderstorms here.

Get serious about the lightning threat from the Insuring Florida blog.

 

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 (Editor’s note: at least 80 people now confirmed or presumed dead). 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.