Category Archives: Health & Safety

How safe is your bike helmet? Virginia Tech and IIHS debut new safety rating system

With more people choosing to bike to work and for recreation, accidents and injuries are also on the rise.

Having the right bike helmet can significantly cut the risk of injury, but up until now there was not a standardized rating that consumers could use to determine the effectiveness of a bike helmet.  A new ratings program, based on research by Virginia Tech and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), changes that.

The program used more rigorous tests than required by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), for example, taking into account the angle at which a bicyclist’s head is likely to strike the pavement in a crash.

The number of stars assigned to each helmet represents how effectively that model reduces overall injury risk. Only four of the 30 helmets tested in the initial round earned a 5-star rating. All four are equipped with a Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS). MIPS creates a low-friction layer inside the helmet which helps to reduce rotational forces that can result from certain impacts.

With better ways to gauge helmet safety, there still remains the problem of getting people to wear them. By some estimates only 18 percent of riders regularly wear helmets.

 

The I.I.I. has facts & statistics on bicycle crashes here.

 

Ebola outbreak in the Congo may be eligible for pandemic catastrophe bonds

The unfolding outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo may activate pandemic catastrophe bonds, said a recent Artemis blog post.

Last year, the World Bank launched a “pandemic bond” to support the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF). The cat bonds are designed to payout when an outbreak gets to a stage where emergency aid financing would be required, enabling the mobilization of capital rapidly to help prevent further spread of any eligible disease outbreak.

Pandemic cat bond notes cover a range of pandemic perils including, Coronavirus, Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, Filovirus, Lassa Fever and Rift Valley Fever, with Ebola falling within the Filovirus category.

The current Ebola outbreak appears to be an eligible event under the terms of the transaction, although it’s probably too early for a formal announcement. The number of confirmed deaths remains well below the trigger point which can only begin to payout for a Filovirus like Ebola once the confirmed deaths pass 250.

Pandemics are one of the most certain uninsured risks in the world today, according to the World Bank site. There’s a high probability that the world will experience a severe outbreak in the next 10 to 15 years that could destabilize societies and economies. The annual global cost of moderately severe to severe pandemics is roughly $570 billion, or 0.7 percent of global income. The cost of a severe pandemic like the 1918 Spanish flu could total as much as 5 percent of global GDP.

Reported Causes of Death and Public Perception

By Jennifer Ha, Head of Editorial and Publications, Insurance Information Institute

This capstone project, entitled, “Death: Reality vs. Reported,” prepared by four students for their Data Science in Practice course at the University of California, San Diego, bases its premise on an old study that compared the disparity of the number and causes of deaths reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and those reported in the media. In this case, the students have given the thesis an update: they have also included Google Trends Search Volume, but limited deaths reported by media to two sources: The Guardian, and The New York Times.

The students looked at the top 10 largest causes of mortality, as well as terrorism, overdoses, and homicides, three other causes of death they believed to receive a lot of media coverage. They did take some liberties (which they detail), but overall the findings were as follows:

“The most striking disparities here are that of kidney disease, heart disease, terrorism, and homicide. Kidney disease and heart disease are both about 10 times underrepresented in the news, while homicide is about 31 times overrepresented, and terrorism is a whopping 3,900 times overrepresented…This suggests that general public sentiment is not well-calibrated with the ways that people actually die. Heart disease and kidney disease appear largely underrepresented in the sphere of public attention, while terrorism and homicides capture a far larger share, relative to their share of deaths caused.”

Click on the gif below to see actual causes of death vs. what we worry about and what’s in the media:

Time to check your vehicle for recalls at NHTSA site

Airbags help save thousands of lives every year, but in the case of Takata Corp, the company’s exploding inflators have been linked to at least 16 deaths worldwide and more than 180 injuries.

Takata’s filing for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. and Japan and $1.6 billion sale of its assets to Key Safety Systems is the latest twist in what has been described as the largest and most complex automotive recall in history.

From Bloomberg:

“The Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware listed more than $10 billion in liabilities, including those from automakers like Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Tesla Inc., which have claims over the airbags, and people who have brought class action lawsuits.”

Also:

“In the U.S. alone, about 43 million air bag inflators are currently subject to recall, and only about 38 percent have been repaired as of May 26, according to data on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website.”

This is a reminder of how important it is to check your vehicle for airbag­–and indeed any other recalls–at the NHTSA website.

The NHTSA Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) search tool allows you to access recall information provided by the manufacturer conducting the recall which may not yet be posted on the website.

Finding out fast about safety problems with your vehicles, tires or car seat allows you to get your car repaired (manufacturers are responsible for costs) and to protect you and your passengers.

The National Safety Council and Fiat Chrysler just launched an awareness campaign “Check to Protect” to encourage vehicle owners to make recall checks.

Check out Insurance Information Institute facts and statistics on product recall insurance.

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.

Now is the time to invest in pandemic preparedness

Despite progress made since the Zika and Ebola crises, most countries are not adequately prepared for a pandemic and are still investing too little to strengthen preparedness.

A report by the International Working Group on Financing Preparedness (IWG), established by the World Bank, finds that the investment case for financing pandemic preparedness is compelling.

“Failing to invest in preparedness is especially short-sighted given the low cost of preparedness relative to the devastating impact of a pandemic.”

In low- and middle-income countries that have calculated the cost of financing preparedness, the investment required is just $1 per person per year, the IWG says.

Meanwhile, a severe pandemic could result in millions of deaths and cost trillions of dollars, while even smaller outbreaks can cost thousands of lives and immense economic damage.

“The most conservative estimates suggest that pandemics destroy 0.1 to 1.0 percent of global GDP, on par with other global threats such as climate change. Recent economic work suggests that the annual global cost of moderately severe to severe pandemics is roughly $570 billion, or 0.7 percent of global income.”

The report lays out 12 recommendations to ensure the adequate financing of the capabilities and infrastructure required to prevent, identify, contain, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.

Many countries chronically underinvest in critical public health functions like disease surveillance, diagnostic laboratories, and emergency operations centers, which enable the early identification and containment of outbreaks, according to the IWG.

Bike to work with insurance

In honor of National Bike To Work Day here are some key facts for our two-wheeled transportation enthusiasts:

  • The number of cyclists commuting by bike increased by 64 percent between 2000 and 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • An estimated 900,000 U.S. workers rode a bike to work in 2015, up from 730,000 in 2010, Census data reveals
  • Bicyclists accounted for 2 percent of all traffic deaths and 2 percent of all crash-related injuries in 2014. Bicyclist deaths occurred most often in urban areas (71 percent)
  • If your bike is stolen or damaged it will be covered under the personal property section of your homeowners or renters insurance policies
  • If you own a particularly expensive bicycle, you may want to consider getting an endorsement that will provide additional coverage, advises the I.I.I.
  • If you injure someone in a bicycle accident and you get sued, there is liability protection under your homeowners or renters insurance policy that will cover you up to the limits of your policy
  • Your homeowners or renters insurance also includes no-fault medical coverage in the event you injure someone

Check out additional I.I.I. information on bicycle safety and insurance here.

And for those living in NYC, Curbed NY has a handy guide to the city’s five best neighborhoods for cyclists.

The Cost Of A Dog Bite

When dogs bite homeowners insurers pay out an average of $33,230 per claim.

In fact, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out in 2016, costing in excess of $600 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm.

The average cost per claim paid out by insurers actually decreased by more than 10 percent in 2016, but the average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 70 percent from 2003 to 2016 (see chart).

This is due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, the I.I.I. reports.

Costs vary widely by state.

The state with the highest average cost per claim was New York, at a whopping $55,671 per claim.

For more state-specific information, go to the I.I.I.’s interactive map.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week® (April 9-15, 2017), is an annual event designed to provide consumers with information on how to be responsible pet owners while increasing awareness of a serious public health issue.

Watch this I.I.I. video for tips on preventing dog bites:

Legal Fallout From Oakland Warehouse Tragedy

Filing of the first lawsuits in connection with the December 2 Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36, underscores the importance of managing legal risks that arise from disaster.

The fire was the deadliest in the United States since a 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island that killed 100.

Civil complaints were filed Friday on behalf of families of two students who died in the blaze against a number of people, including the building’s owner and those who transformed the space into an artist community that was home to 20 people but not permitted for residential use, promoters and those involved with the event.

Separate claims were also filed against employees of Oakland city and Alameda County departments.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the city of Oakland has come under increasing scrutiny since the Dec. 2 fire for failing to prevent the blaze. City officials have said no building inspector had been in the warehouse for the past three decades even though complaints had been made for years.

Although state law provides a broad liability shield for local governments for failing to conduct building inspections, the immunity is “not insurmountable,” according to the lawyer representing families.

Criminal charges may also follow.

Among the lawsuits’ allegations, according to CNN:

—“The interior of the approximately 10,000-square-foot Ghost Ship was a death trap, which contained a maze of makeshift rooms, alcoves and partitions. It was cluttered with carvings, mannequins, paintings, artwork, scraps of wood, pianos, furniture, tapestries and at least one recreational vehicle trailer, which were kindling for the fire.”

and

—The building contained insufficient smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinklers, exit signs and emergency lighting.

The Insuring California blog post Can cities and artists work together to create safe spaces for venues? explores some of the other factors contributing to the deadly blaze.

U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 1,210 fires in warehouse properties per year (excluding refrigerated or cold storage), which represents less than 1% of all structure fires, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports.

These fires caused an annual average of $155 million in direct property damage, three civilian deaths, and 19 civilian injuries.

Fires that were intentionally set and fires caused by electrical distribution and lighting equipment are the leading causes of warehouse fires, according to the NFPA (below).

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NFPA notes:

“Warehouses present special challenges for fire protection because their contents and layouts are conducive to fire spread and present obstacles to manual fire suppression efforts.”

More on structure fires available in the Insurance Information Institute’s facts and statistics on fire.

Post-Matthew Update: How To Safely Clean Up Mold After A Flood

Guest Post: CDC

Returning to your home after a flood is a big part of getting your life back to normal. But consumers and small businesses may be facing a new challenge: mold. What can you do to get rid of it? How do you get the mold out of your home or office and stay safe at the same time? CDC has investigated floods, mold, and cleanup, and offers practical tips for homeowners and others on how to safely and efficiently remove mold from the home.

In 2005, thousands of people along the Gulf Coast were faced with cleaning up mold from their homes after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. One of our first concerns was to let homeowners and others know how they could clean up mold safely. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, we teamed up with other federal agencies to provide practical advice on mold cleanup. This guidance outlines what to do before and after going into a moldy building, how to decide if you can do the cleanup yourself or need to hire someone, and how you can do the cleanup safely.

Prepare To Clean Up

Before you start any cleanup work, call your insurance company and take pictures of the home and your belongings. Throw away, or at least move outside, anything that was wet with flood water and can’t be cleaned and dried completely within 24 to 48 hours. Remember, drying your home and removing water-damaged items is the most important step to prevent mold damage.

Protect Yourself

We offer specific recommendations for different groups of people and different cleanup activities. This guidance educates people about the type of protection (think: gloves, goggles, masks) you need for different parts of your mold cleanup. It also identifies groups of people who should and should not be doing cleanup activities.

Be Safe With Bleach

Many people use bleach to clean up mold. If you decide to use bleach, use it safely by wearing gloves, a mask, and goggles to protect yourself. Remember these four tips to stay safe:

  • NEVER mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaning product.
  • ALWAYS open windows and doors when using bleach, to let fumes escape.
  • NEVER use bleach straight from the bottle to clean surfaces. Use no more than 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water when you’re cleaning up mold.  If you are using stronger, professional strength bleach use less than 1 cup of bleach per gallon of water.
  • ALWAYS protect your mouth, nose, skin, and eyes against both mold and bleach with an N-95 mask, gloves, and goggles.  You can buy an N-95 mask at home improvement and hardware stores.

You can take steps to keep yourself and others protected while cleaning up mold after a flood. Make sure to follow CDC’s recommendations so you can return home safely.

Resources