Texas Wildfires

California may be the first state that comes to mind when you think wildfires, but Texas has had the greatest number of wildfires in the last three years, according to I.I.I. research.

The New York Times reports that after already enduring a record-setting statewide drought, Texas is now battling a series of wildfires that have destroyed more than 1,000 homes, mostly near Austin.

A summary of the Labor Day Texas wildfires by AIR Worldwide has more on this event by the numbers.

Over the Labor Day weekend Texas experienced about 85 new outbreaks of wildfires, AIR says.

The largest, the Bastrop County Complex fire, which is burning about 25 miles southeast of Austin has raged through 30,000 acres, destroyed nearly 600 homes, and forced the evacuation of at least 5,000 people. The Texas Forest Service has more on the current situation.

AIR estimates that the average replacement value (building only) of a single family home in Texas statewide is roughly $187,000.

To put the most recent fires in context, AIR notes that fire crews in Texas have fought nearly 19,000 wildfires since the beginning of the year. About 3.6 million acres – an area the size of Connecticut – have been consumed in the state, accounting for nearly half of all the acreage burned by wildfires in the entire United States this year.

The fires have been especially severe because of the 2011 southern United States drought that has persisted throughout the year. The percentage of exceptional drought in Texas is the highest since the U.S. Drought Monitor began tracking the data in 2000, AIR adds.

It’s worth noting that the latest U.S. Drought Monitor released last Thursday showed some 41 percent of the country in drought, and 15 percent of the country in exceptional drought. A year ago, those figures were 26 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

I.I.I.  reminds us that  wildfires are a national problem, affecting almost every state.

In 2010 catastrophic wildfires caused $210 million in insured losses and $314 million in total economic losses, according to Munich Re.

Check out the Lede blog at the New York Times for  video footage  of the fires and destruction in Texas.

September 11 Report Card

A decade after September 11, the nation is not yet prepared for a truly catastrophic disaster, according to a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The assessment from former members of the 9/11 Commission comes  as we approach  the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

According to the report’s analysis:

The 9/11 attacks demonstrated that robust and well-rehearsed emergency response capabilities can be overwhelmed by a significant terrorist attack. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina revealed that a catastrophic natural disaster could produce a chaotic and disorganized response by all levels of government, causing large-scale human suffering. A decade after 9/11, the nation is not yet prepared for a truly catastrophic disaster.†

While the report states that substantial progress has been made post-9/11 in improving homeland security, it highlights a number of areas where more needs to be done.

For example, it says the nation is still highly vulnerable to aviation security threats, noting that the Transportation Security Administration still lacks reliable explosives detection technology and lags in its capability to automatically identify concealed weapons and explosives.

The Washington Post blog Checkpoint Washington has more on the report’s findings.

I.I.I. president Dr. Robert Hartwig discusses the impact of 9/11 on insurers in this video:

Customer Satisfaction With Homeowners Insurance

The just released J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. National Homeowners Insurance Study contains a number of interesting findings, but a couple of key takeaways really caught our attention.

For example, homeowners who carry sufficient insurance coverage to fully rebuild their homes in the event of a total loss are more satisfied with their insurer than those that don’t, the study found.

Approximately 16 percent of homeowners insurance policyholders indicate they carry less coverage than would be required to fully rebuild their home in the event of a total loss.

Among those policyholders, satisfaction averages 739 on a 1,000 point scale in 2011 – more than 40 points lower than among policyholders who say they have sufficient coverage.

J.D. Power notes that it is key for homeowners to ensure that their insurance coverage is sufficient before a disaster strikes.

While many homeowners may not give much thought to their insurance under normal circumstances, the moment they have to file a claim, the value of coverage becomes realized.

The study found  that customers who have filed a claim tend to be more knowledgeable about their policies – and also more satisfied – than those who haven’t had a claims experience.

Overall satisfaction with homeowners insurance companies averages 769 in 2011 – improving by 19 points from 2010, according to the study. While satisfaction improved in all five factors, the greatest gain was in the interaction factor.

This year’s study is based on responses from more than 9,100 homeowners insurance customers, fielded between April and July 2011.

Check out this I.I.I. video for tips on making sure you are  adequately insured.

Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on homeowners insurance.