Early Hurricane Forecasts

Early 2011 Atlantic hurricane season forecasts are coming in and based on the latest information it appears we can continue to expect above average activity when the season gets underway June 1.

Here’s a glance at how they stack up.

Forecasters at the Colorado State University’s (CSU) Tropical Meteorology Project are predicting 16 named storms, with 9 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes (Category 3-4-5). They are also calling for above average chance that a major hurricane will make U.S. and Caribbean landfall.

London-based consortium Tropical Storm Risk is calling for 14 named storms, with seven to eight hurricanes and three to four major hurricanes. TSR forecasts Atlantic basin and U.S. landfalling tropical cyclone activity at about 25 percent above the 1950-2010 norm.

Accuweather.com Hurricane Center meteorologists are also predicting an active season for 2011, with 15 named storms, eight of which are expected to become hurricanes, with three major hurricanes. They also expect more impact on the U.S. coastline than last year.

For insurers these early forecasts give a general idea of what’s to come, but of course, it’s still very early days.

As CSU says:

“Everyone should realize that it is impossible to precisely predict this season’s hurricane activity in early April.†

Updated forecasts will be released around June 1, when hurricane season opens.

Check out I.I.I. hurricane facts and stats.

Epsilon Data Breach Escalates

A growing list of companies – from retailers to hotel chains  to financial firms – are involved after a massive data breach at marketing services firm Epsilon.

Companies have been notifying customers that their email addresses and names may have been compromised in the breach.

Household names such as Best Buy, Target and TiVo are affected as well as credit card firms including Chase, Citi, Barclays and Capital One.

If you are customers of any of these companies you will probably have received an email warning you to watch out for future emails and not to give out any personal information or click on suspicious links or attachments.

PC World has a handy Q&A on what steps you can take to protect yourself.

The incident highlights the fact that data breaches can affect any type of organization. It also reminds us of the risk businesses face from this threat.

The average organizational cost of a data breach increased to $7.2 million in 2010 and cost companies an average of $214 per compromised record up from $204 in 2009, according to a recent study by Symantec Corp and the Ponemon Institute.

That same study also found that for the second straight year organizations’ need to respond rapidly to data breaches drove the associated costs higher.

In 2010, companies that notified victims within one month of discovering the breach had a per-record cost of $268, up 22 percent from 2009. Companies that took longer paid $174 per record, down 11 percent.

This means that rapid response to data breaches is costing companies 54 percent more per record than companies that moved more slowly, the study said.

Check out related I.I.I. information on identity theft.

What’s in your house?

If your home is ever burglarized, or burns down, the best way to demonstrate what needs to be replaced is with a home inventory – a record of your valuables, when you purchased them, and what they cost. Your insurer needs this information to properly adjust your claim.

This blogger’s home inventory is in a fireproof lock box. Here, for example, is a picture of the home computers:

Bad blogger!
Find the Zip drive

How old is this photo? That hole in the front of the desktop is for a 3.5-inch floppy disk, a feature now most frequently seen on display at the Smithsonian.

Clearly, the Lynch home inventory needed an update.

Fortunately, we have kids.

Our kids (13 and 9) are at the every-media-object-is-a-toy stage, so Dad has given them a new mission: Photograph everything valuable in the home. And since blogging pays less than, say, running Goldman Sachs, there’s not much to photograph. Then we’ll put it all on the laptop’s hard drive. (The kids are better at downloading and uploading than the old man.)

But that laptop can be stolen. It can be destroyed in a fire. So how do we preserve our home inventory?

Thankfully, as we now say in the I-phone age, “There’s an app for that.”

Or several: The New York Times last week rounded up home inventory apps, including one for $25 that lets you scan in the bar code of items like CDs, books and DVDs – speeding the process considerably.

I.I.I. provides a free online home inventory service. (App is coming soon, I gather.) Basically you sign on, upload pictures of your stuff and fill out the details. A I.I.I. video describing the service is here. And, to get you on your way, here is a good list of what sorts of items end up in most inventories.