Category Archives: Disaster Resilience

Earthquakes:
You Can’t Predict Them, But You Can Prepare

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I

“Neither the United States Geological Survey (USGS) nor any other scientists have accurately predicted a major earthquake,” according to a recent post in the California Residential Mitigation Program (CRMP) blog. “And scientists do not expect to be able to predict earthquakes in the future. However, USGS scientists can calculate the probability  that a significant earthquake will occur in a specific area within a certain number of years.”

CRMP is a joint powers authority formed by its members, the California Earthquake Authority and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Forecasting earthquakes directly before they occur is not possible – and the risk of a large earthquake remains high. With more than 15,000 known faults in California – more than 500 categorized as “active” – and most Californians living within 30 miles of an active fault, no one in the Golden State is immune to earthquake risk. 

With this in mind, the United States government has been working toward greater quake preparedness. The USGS recently released a report, UCERF3: A New Earthquake Forecast for California’s Complex System,projecting a 93 percent probability of one or more magnitude 6.7 quake or greater hitting Southern California over the  30-year period that began  in 2014. Additionally, the USGS predicts that, over the same period, there is more than a 99 percent chance of at least one magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquakes occurring in all of California.

What can you do to prepare?

ShakeAlert is a tool that helps Californians provide an initial alert concerning an imminent tremor. This early warning system delivers information that on earthquakes moments after it is begun, such as the expected intensity of ground shaking, and warning people who may be affected.

Additionally, retrofitting older homes – particularly those built before 1980, which predate modern seismic building codes – can help create more quake-resistant and resilient residences. Indeed, U.S. Census data found that than 53 percent of the housing units in San Diego County fall into that category.

As wildfires and other climate-related events continue to capture headlines, it’s important that homeowners and businesses in quake-prone areas do not neglect earthquake preparation. Most standard homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover most earthquake damage. However, with the right tools and information, people can better prepare for tremors, keeping themselves and their homes safe.

Weather, Supply Chain, Inflation Drive Up Commercial Property Insurance Prices

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I

Construction material costs rose dramatically in 2021, altering the underwriting and pricing of commercial property insurance. A recent report by Westchester – Chubb’s excess and surplus specialty product group – details the causes of rising commercial property insurance prices and how they can be mitigated.

The report cites three main factors driving the increase:

  • More frequent and severe insured losses due to extreme weather;
  • A supply chain crisis that has generated higher costs for construction materials; and
  • Rising inflation, which totaled nearly 7 percent in December 2021 from the previous year’s period and is the largest one-year increase in the past 40 years.

Weather, extreme and unpredictable

According to NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, there were 20 weather-related disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion occurred in the United States between January and September 2021. Between 1980 and 2020, the average number of these types of losses was seven.

In the first half of 2021, about $42 billion in insured property losses were recorded by the insurance industry, representing the highest figure in a decade, according to Swiss Re.

Despite this dramatic rise in losses, the report says, catastrophe risk models “may not fully capture the potential losses attributable to unusual weather events like the December 2021 tornado outbreak, Hurricane Ida, and Winter Storm Uri.” The unpredictability of these storms, alongside a need for better hydrological, topological, and geospatial data gathering and analysis, continues to pose a threat for insurers trying to anticipate risks associated with commercial properties.

Supply chain

2021 also saw a fluctuation of pricing changes for many materials — particularly those used for building – courtesy of the pandemic’s disruption of the global supply chain. Although the exorbitant lumber prices fell in the second half of the year, the prices of materials like copper piping and tubing dramatically increased, according to the report. This posed a challenge for insurers to approximate future costs for underwriting and pricing purposes. 

If an unexpected major storm hits a heavily populated region, thousands of homes may need to be repaired or replaced at the same time, pushing the cost of goods and labor – and, ultimately, insurance – even higher. In November 2021, the report says, it was estimated that commercial properties were undervalued for insurance underwriting purposes by more than 30 percent.

Inflation

In addition to pandemic-driven cost increases, underwriters are concerned about the broader inflation picture and its potential impact on interest rates.

“High inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s, for example, adversely affected the industry, resulting in weaker underwriting performance and reserve levels,” the report says. “Rising interest rates, on the other hand, deteriorated the value of fixed income assets.”

Economists recently polled by Reuters said they expect the U.S. Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy to tame persistently high inflation at a much faster pace than they believed a month earlier.

 Where do we go from here?

Westchester’s report offers several strategies to help combat rising commercial property insurance costs:

  • Insurers, reinsurers, modeling firms, brokers, and risk managers need to develop more accurate and near-real-time data on building condition, drainage systems, real estate trends, and access to construction materials and labor;
  • Risk managers and property owners should consider entering agreements with contractors before weather events to ensure that materials and services are available when the need arises;
  • To ensure more comprehensive underwriting of a building’s replacement value, more frequent and in-depth property damage risk appraisals from qualified sources are needed; and
  • Insurers should consider upgrading loss prevention services provided to commercial property owners and rewarding policyholders with discounts and credits for taking certain risk-mitigation measures.

JIF C-Suite Panel:
Finding Opportunity
Amid Evolving Risks

Credit for all photos in this post: Don Pollard

Insurers – beyond their traditional role as financial first responders – are helping policyholders mitigate the risks posed by natural disasters and cyber threats, panelists at a Joint Industry Forum (JIF) panel said.

The JIF’s C-Suite on Resilience panel was moderated by John Huff, president and CEO of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR). It included Richard Creedon, CEO, Utica Mutual Insurance Company; Paul Horgan, Head of U.S. National Accounts, Zurich North America; John Smith, CEO, Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company; and Rohit Verma, CEO, Crawford & Co.

“2021 has been a year of risk that has certainly challenged us,” ABIR’s Huff said. “Eighteen events in the U.S. alone, with over a billion dollars an event. Just a few years ago, those types of numbers would be unheard of, not to mention the 538 deaths and significant economic losses.”

Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 storm that made landfall in Louisiana in August, and the Dixie Fire, which burned 1 million acres in California over four months, were two of the most devastating national disasters this year.

“One recurring theme that we can talk about, especially with hurricanes and wildfires, is that we have growth in population in areas that are significantly impacted by these threats,” said Phil Klotzbach, PhD, a research scientist at Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science, and a Triple-I non-resident scholar, in introductory remarks.

Huff started the discussion by noting that the notion of resilience seems to have evolved from preparedness to meet and rebound from large, single events like hurricane, earthquake, or wildfire.

“It seems we may have entered a new period for leadership to think of resilience more broadly,” he said. “I’m thinking of the interconnectedness of businesses, individuals, and communities through technology and global commerce; the supply-chain and labor-force disruptions we’ve experienced due to the pandemic; cyber risks, which is such a growing market for our industry but also a growing risk for our global economy. Have risk and resilience fundamentally changed in recent years? Or are we just having to adjust to viewing them through a new lens?”

“There’s certainly a lot more to think about,” said Utica Mutual’s Creedon. “The opportunity moment for us is that there’s market need and expertise we have to expand beyond the traditional risk-transfer product.”

He noted that the industry has historically thought about risk and resilience “in balance-sheet terms, we’re building up large reservoirs of capital and surplus for that large capital- and surplus-draining event that’s going to happen. But nowadays capital is fairly cheap and abundant – it’s almost a renewable resource – and that kind of makes the risk-transfer product more commoditized and sort of a race to the bottom on pricing and product.”

The opportunity lies in insurers’ ability to augment their traditional capabilities with risk management, loss control, and other services to have an impact for consumers, he noted.

“It’s not, in my mind, a fundamental shift in what we define as risk,” said Pennsylvania Lumbermens’ Smith. “It’s that there are so many coming at us. As I think about risk, I do a lot of listening.  That’s why I’m here today, why I’m part of [Triple-I] I want to hear different perspectives.”

Zurich’s Horgan drew a contrast between U.S. insurers and their European counterparts, which, he said, “have been focused on climate change for a much longer time. Zurich has been monitoring its environmental footprint since 2007, has been net neutral since 2014, has signed on to U.N. agreements. These are things that have been hotly debated in the U.S., but they’re buying in.”

 “Our customers are craving for insights,” Horgan continued. “These are evolving risks. Some of them are insurable, some of them are not.  [Our customers] are looking to us for data. They know where they’ve got to be, and they know they have this journey to get there.”

 “I think about resilience as being able to recover from adversity, able to recover from a loss, or prevent that loss from having any impact on you,” Crawford’s Verma said.  “It’s impressive to see what the industry has done. Where there’s a gap is, if the industry was a playing field, everyone is playing like a quarterback, and if everyone is playing like a quarterback you can’t win.”

 Verma said his concern is whether the industry is coming together as a team to “rethink the ecosystem of insurance – the brokers, the claims providers, the carriers” to have a meaningful impact on resilience.

JIF 2021: Risk & the “New Normal”

Insurance industry decision makers and thought leaders gathered yesterday for the Triple-I Joint Industry Forum (JIF) in New York City to share insights on managing risk in the post-pandemic world.

The in-person, daylong program was conducted in accordance with New York City’s COVID-19 protocols. Topics ranged from climate and cyber risk and the impact of “runaway litigation” on insurer losses and policyholder premiums to the challenges and opportunities presented by “the Great Resignation” for acquiring and nurturing talent in the industry.

The panels featured speakers from across the insurance world, academia, and media. Watch this space next week for panel wrap-ups.

Flood: An Insurable Peril That’s Underinsured

By John Novaria, Managing Director, Amplify

This year’s hurricanes have served as a wakeup call about the importance of flood insurance and the fact that not enough people have it. Only 1 in 6 homes in the United States is insured against flood, yet 90 percent of natural catastrophes in the country involve flooding.

More of the population is moving into flood-prone areas. Not only does this increased residential and commercial development put more people in harm’s way, it reduces the amount of land available to absorb excess water. This means more homes and businesses inundated, more contents damaged or destroyed, and more vehicles immersed.

Nowadays, flooding tends to cause more costly damage than wind. An average storm year will generate uninsured losses of $10 billion due to flooding, compared to insured losses of $5 billion.

“One of the most frustrating things for our industry related to flood is that this is actually an insurable peril and it’s broadly uninsured,” said Keith Wolfe, president of U.S. property & casualty insurance at Swiss Re. Wolf recently spoke with Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan, in the latest edition of Triple-I’s Executive Exchange, about closing the flood-protection gap.

That’s changing, however, as the public and private sectors work together to improve consumer behavior and harden communities. The private market is slowly but surely closing the flood protection gap as it emerges as a viable complement to the National Flood Insurance Program.

Improvements in modeling are making this peril more insurable, and private companies are recognizing the flood-insurance opportunity and entering the market. According to Swiss Re, flood represents a $1.1 billion growth opportunity for insurers.

Insurer Declined to Renew your Homeowners Policy? You Have Options

By Maria Sassian, Triple-I consultant

In high-risk areas like the West Coast with its wildfires and Florida with its hurricanes and floods, insurance non-renewals are on the rise as insurers attempt to limit their exposure to future losses. Homeowners insurance protects your most valuable possession, so the prospect of getting a notice that your policy will not be renewed can be nerve-racking.  

But don’t panic if that happens – you have options.

Know the difference between cancellation and non-renewal

There is a big difference between an insurance company canceling a policy and choosing not to renew it. Insurance companies can’t cancel a policy that has been in force for more than 60 days except when:

Nonrenewal is a different matter. Either you or your insurance company can decide not to renew the policy when it expires. Depending on the state you live in, your insurance company must give you a certain number of days’ notice and explain the reason for not renewing before it drops your policy.

Question the non-renewal

If you think the reason the insurance company provided for non-renewing is unfair or want a further explanation, call the company.  You may get an opportunity to keep your coverage by verifying that you’ve taken risk mitigation measures such as replacing the roof or removing flammable materials near your house.

If your policy isn’t renewed because of a failed inspection, making the proper updates could help you maintain coverage.

Shop around for another policy

If your insurer insists on non-renewing, shop around for a new policy. Here are some tips from Triple-I’s How to Save Money on Your Homeowners Insurance guide:

  • Ask friends and relatives for recommendations for insurers and then do your due diligence.
  • Contact the state insurance department to find out whether they make available consumer complaint ratios by company. If they do, check into the insurers you’re considering doing business with.
  • Check the financial health of prospective insurance companies by using ratings from independent rating agencies and consulting consumer magazines for reviews.
  • For price quotes, call companies directly or access information online. Your state insurance department may also provide comparisons of prices charged by major insurers.
  • Get quotes from at least three companies.
  • Don’t shop based on price alone. Remember, you’ll be dealing with this company in the event of an accident or other emergency. When you need to file a claim you’ll want an insurer that provides good customer service, so test that while you’re shopping, and choose a company whose representatives take the time to address your questions and concerns.

Explore your state’s shared market option

If you’ve shopped around and can’t find coverage, you may need to turn to the state-run shared market. Many states offer Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) policies for high-risk homes, or beach and windstorm plans for coastal properties. These policies offer limited coverage and are often more expensive than a standard home policy from a private insurer.

For more comprehensive coverage, homeowners in California may purchase a “difference in conditions” policy that complements FAIR Plan coverage.

Look into surplus lines

The surplus lines market, which is comprised of highly specialized insurers, exists to provide coverage that is not available through licensed insurers in the standard market. Each state has surplus lines regulations and each surplus lines company is overseen for solvency by its home state.

Available surplus lines companies vary by state. Speak with an insurance agent or broker about surplus lines if you’ve been rejected by at least three other insurers.

Non-renewals in disaster-prone areas

 State regulators are pushing back against the non-renewal trend by placing moratoriums on non-renewals for certain zip codes, as happened in California recently, or for certain companies, as is the case in Louisiana.

Whether the decision not to renew is yours or your insurer’s, don’t put off shopping for a new policy. You don’t want coverage on your home to lapse.

Relocated Due to Ida?
You Might Be Covered
for Additional Living Expenses

Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies include additional living expenses (ALE) coverage. ALE pays the costs of living away from home—above and beyond your customary expenses— if you cannot live at home due to damage caused by an insured event that makes the home temporarily uninhabitable.

What expenses are typically covered by ALE?

ALE covers living expenses incurred by you so your household can maintain its normal standard of living.  These expenses could include:

  • Temporary housing
  • Moving costs
  • Grocery or restaurant bills 
  • Storage costs
  • Laundry expenses
  • Transportation (e.g., if your temporary home requires a longer commute)
  • Parking fees
  • Pet boarding

Your homeowners policy’s ALE coverage is usually equal to 20 percent of your home’s insured value—a home insured for $200,000, for instance, may have ALE coverage of up to $40,000—or limited to a certain timeframe (e.g., no more than 12 months).

What about Damage from Hurricane Ida?

Standard ALE coverage should be triggered if damage from a covered peril (e.g., wind and rain) caused the home to be uninhabitable. In addition, some companies provide ALE coverage when policyholders leave their home or apartment due to mandatory evacuation orders. Policyholders should speak with their insurance professional to confirm whether their policy provides ALE coverage for their situation.

As a reminder, standard homeowners insurance policies typically do not provide coverage for flood damage. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) covers physical damage from flood but does not include ALE. Some privately sold flood policies offer ALE following flood losses. 

What Other Help Is Available?

Federal assistance has been made available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). On September 2, FEMA announced they will cover hotel expenses for survivors of Hurricane Ida with damaged homes or dwellings in 25 parishes in southeast Louisiana.

The program, known as Transitional Sheltering Assistance, will provide survivors with short-term housing free-of-charge as they recover from the Category 4 storm. Survivors must first register with FEMA at disasterassistance.gov or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. Those wishing to take advantage of the program must find and book their own hotel rooms. Participating hotels are listed at www.femaevachotels.com.

“Silent” Echoes of 9/11
in Today’s Management
of Cyber-Related Risks

“The cyber landscape to me looks a lot like the counterterrorism landscape did before 9/11.”
Garrett Graff , historian and journalist

Before Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism coverage was included in most commercial property policies as a “silent” peril – not specifically excluded, therefore covered. Afterward, insurers began excluding terrorist acts from policies, and the U.S. government established the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) to stabilize the market.

TRIA requires insurers to make terrorism coverage available to commercial policyholders but doesn’t require policyholders to buy it. Originally created as three-year program allowing the federal government to share losses due to terrorist attacks with insurers, it has been renewed four times: in 200520072015, and 2019.  

An evolving risk

Terrorism risk has evolved in complexity and scope, and some in the national security world have compared U.S. cybersecurity preparedness today to its readiness for terrorist acts two decades ago.

“The cyber landscape to me looks a lot like the counterterrorism landscape did before 9/11,” historian and journalist Garrett Graff said during a recent Homeland Security Committee event at which scholars and former 9/11 Commission members urged lawmakers to increase funding for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and other federal agencies focused on preventing attacks.

Cyber is more complicated, said Amy Zegart, co-director of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, due to the private sector’s role “as both a victim and a threat vector. There are more people in the U.S. protecting our national parks than there are in CISA protecting our critical infrastructure.”  Cyberattacks like the one on the Colonial Pipeline underscore this reality.

When TRIA was reauthorized in 2019, a crucial component was the mandate for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to make recommendations to Congress on amending the act to address cyberthreats. The trillion-dollar infrastructure bill now being considered in Congress proposes $1.9 billion for cybersecurity, with more than half set aside for state, local, and tribal governments. It would establish a Cyber Response and Recovery Fund for use by CISA.

“Silent cyber”

Like terrorism before 9/11, much cyber risk remains silent. Silent cyber – also called “non-affirmative cyber” – refers to potential losses stemming from policies not designed to cover cyber-related hazards. If silent cyber isn’t addressed, insurer solvency could be affected, ultimately hurting policyholders. 

The United Kingdom’s Prudential Regulation Authority in 2019 sent a letter to all U.K. insurers saying they must have “action plans to reduce the unintended exposure” to non-affirmative cyber. Later that year, Lloyd’s issued a bulletin mandating clarity on all policies as to whether cyber risk is covered. This led many insurers to exclude cyber or include it and price the risk accordingly. 

“Other regulators and the rating agencies have been less vocal about the issue” writes Willis Towers Watson,  “and, until recently, efforts to address silent cyber have been limited.” Some insurers – most notably in the specialty mutual sector – updated their policies in the mid-2010s to provide clarity on cyber. But, until recently, movement elsewhere has been sporadic, Willis writes.

Event-driven action

The recent proliferation of ransomware attacks leading to business interruption has led to cyber insurance – which began as a diversifying, secondary line – becoming a primary insurance-purchasing consideration. Unfortunately, while policies are available, many policyholders still incorrectly expect to be covered under their property and liability policies. Confusion around cyber coverage can lead to unexpected gaps.

“In a best-case scenario, a cyber incident may trigger coverage under multiple policies and increase the available total limit to respond to a covered event,” said Adam Lantrip, CAC Specialty’s cyber practice leader. “In a more common scenario, multiple policies may be triggered but not coordinate with one another, and the policyholder spends more on legal fees than the cost of having purchased standalone cyber insurance in the first place.”

Cyber risk will only grow in significance, complexity, and cost as the world becomes more wired and interdependent. The costs of cyberattacks are potentially massive and need to be mitigated in advance.

From the Triple-I blog

Emerging Cyber Terrorism Threats and the Federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act

A World Without TRIA:  Formation of a Federal Terrorism Insurance Backstop

Brokers, Policyholders Need Greater Clarity on Cyber Coverage

Cyber Risk Gets Real, Demands New Approaches

Businesses Large and Small Need to Be Cyber Resilient in a COVID-19 World

Victimized Twice? Firms Paying Cyber Ransom Could Face U.S. Penalties

From Risk & Insurance (an affiliate of The Institutes and sister organization to Triple-I)

Silent Cyber Will Sabotage Your Insurance Policy if You Don’t Watch Out. Here’s What Risk Managers Should Keep Top of Mind

After Ida: Stay Safe and Report Damage Quickly

“Stay informed, stay safe, and contact your insurance professional as soon as possible.”

The Insurance Information Institute is working with insurers in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida to monitor property damages and assist consumers as they recover. In this video, Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan provides guidance for homeowners to help them ensure a smooth claims experience and avoid being taken advantage of by unethical contractors and other scammers who tend to emerge after disasters.

“Right now, the most important thing those impacted by Ida can do is remain safe and stay out of the way out of recovery workers,” Kevelighan says. “The storm may have passed, but remember that new dangers may be lurking.”

In particular, he points to threats from downed electrical wires and washed-out roads and bridges. Kevelighan also emphasizes the importance of quickly reporting property damage to your insurer.  

Other resources:

Hurricanes: Insurance and recovery resources

After a hurricane, beware of the dangers that remain

When disaster strikes: Preparation, response and recovery

Health safety following a flood

Recovering from a flood

Catastrophe-related fraud