Category Archives: Risk Management

Is California Serious About Wildfire Risk?

Wildfire is a critical risk facing California, but at least one insurance industry leader argues that the state government isn’t taking it seriously enough.

“Yes, the governor has committed some $2 billion dollars to wildfire budget items,” writes John Norwood of Norwood Associates LLC in an Insurance Journal Op-Ed piece. “These include $404.8 million to hire staff and purchase firefighting equipment; $1.128 billion for forest management, such as thinning and prescribed burns; and $616 million to community investments.”

The details can be found in the Wildfire and Climate Change Fact Sheet provided by the governor’s office.

“However,” the Op-Ed continues, “if you compare that commitment of dollars to the list of other budget allocations the governor has just signed, it appears the administration and the Legislature determined the wildfire problem was only as worthy as some of the lower-priority budget allocations, like cleaning up trash ($1.5 billion) and paying-off delinquent water and electrical bills ($2 billion).”

Norwood is one of California’s top legislative advocates and managing partner of Norwood Associates.  He is considered the leader in the state’s insurance, financial services, and small business sector.

Rising insurance costs

Wildfires over the past five years have burned millions of acres in California, destroyed entire towns, wiped out well over 10,000 homes, killed scores of residents, and blanketed the state with unhealthy air.

“California homeowners and businesses are paying five- and six-figure premiums for property insurance, and that is only when they can find insurance at any price,” Norwood writes. “California’s largest industries – agriculture  and wine production – are being devastated by the lack of available insurance.”

And yet, he continues, “the $2 billion dollars committed to wildfire risks doesn’t even make it into the top five issues in the state based on the budget allocation committed to the fight.”

Role of reinsurance

Reinsurers — which insure insurers — are crucial to how the world handles natural disasters. As the frequency and severity of small-scale disasters increase, they’re having to pay more attention. S&P Global observes that “around one-half of the reinsurers we rate reduced their exposure in absolute terms, with very few players taking on additional catastrophe risk.”

It adds that this “de-risking trend” among reinsurers has been particularly visible in North America in recent years.

Without reinsurance, primary insurance rates must rise as properties in some areas become uninsurable.

Norwood argues that availability and affordability of property insurance are unlikely to change until the global reinsurance market believes California is serious about addressing its wildfire risks and there are demonstrable results in reducing the number and severity of wildfires in the state.

Without the reinsurance market backing California property/casualty insurance companies, there will continue to be an availability crisis in the state for property insurance and prices for such coverage will continue to increase substantially to the detriment of California’s homeowners and businesses.

As Nat Cat Losses Mount,
A Resilience Mindset Matters More Than Ever

Insurance is essential for individuals, businesses, and communities to recover quickly from natural  catastrophes – but perils have evolved to a point at which risk transfer, though necessary, isn’t enough to ensure resilience.

Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan said during a that better insured communities recover more quickly but “the long-term resilience of both the communities impacted by natural catastrophes and of the industry itself depend on preparedness and improved risk mitigation.”  He was one of three panelists participating in the webinar.

“Something’s Got to Give”

Insured U.S. natural catastrophe losses totaled $67 billion in 2020 after an Atlantic hurricane season which included 30 named storms, record-setting wildfires in California, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, and a severe derecho in Iowa. This year’s hurricane season looks to be more severe; the Bootleg wildfire in Oregon – so large and intense it has begun to create its own weather and is affecting air quality as far east as New York City – isn’t  expected to be fully contained until late November; and these disasters are taking place on the heels of devastating winter storms in the first quarter.

As Kevelighan put it in his panel remarks, pointing to a 700 percent increase in insurer loss costs since the 1980s, “Something’s got to give.”

“As the country’s financial first responders,” he said, “insurers are not just responsible for providing relief to the communities affected by natural disasters, but also planning for potential catastrophes to come.”  

One of the ways insurers do this, he said, is by building the industry’s cumulative policyholders’ surplus—the amount of money remaining after insurers’ collective liabilities are subtracted from their assets. At year-end 2020, the U.S. policyholders’ surplus stood at a record-high $914.3 billion.

Mitigate and educate

The role of the insurance industry has grown beyond merely taking on risks to educating the public, regulators, and corporate decision makers on the changing nature of risk and driving a resilience mindset characterized by a focus on pre-emptive mitigation and rapid recovery. Triple-I and a host of other insurance industry organizations have played a key role in promoting public-private partnerships and using advanced data and analytics to understand and address hazards in advance.

For example, Triple-I’s online Resilience Accelerator provides access to data and risk maps that empowers the public to assess and prepare for risks specific to their own communities.

This webinar, co-presented by The Institutes’ Griffith Foundation and the Insurance Regulator Education Foundation, included panelists Hanna Grant, Head of the Secretariat, Access to Insurance Initiative; and Dr. Abhishek Varma, Associate Professor, Finance, Insurance and Law, Illinois State University. It was moderated by James Jones, Executive Director, Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services, Illinois State University.

Webinar highlights:

Long-Term Considerations
From Condo Collapse

The insurer for the Champlain Towers South condo association has said it will make an up-front payment to resolve damage claims related to the 12-story beachfront property in the Miami  suburb of  Surfside, Fla., that collapsed on June 24, 2021.

“We want to make it known that James River Insurance Company has made the decision to voluntarily tender its entire limit from the enclosed policy towards attempting to resolve all the claims in this matter,” the insurer’s attorney wrote to the judge handling a class-action lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages from the association.

Since the collapse last week, four residents or their families have filed lawsuits against the association. Many more suits are expected in the coming months, and litigation could take years as investigators work to determine what caused the collapse. The first court hearing was held yesterday, and a Miami-Dade Circuit judge acknowledged that the building’s $48 million in total insurance coverage likely won’t be enough.

In all, the court heard, the condo association’s master policy has $30 million in property coverage and $18 million in liability coverage. The condo association has agreed to hand over financial decision making to a court-appointed “receiver.”

Seeking survivors as storm nears

With investigators still working to find and rescue survivors and Hurricane Elsa – the first of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season and earliest “E-named” storm on record – heading toward Florida, the situation remains fluid. This week, dozens of units at a Central Florida condominium complex near Disney World were deemed unsafe after an inspection found the walkways leading to the units were at risk of collapsing, according to an Osceola County spokesperson.  Residents were advised to enter the buildings containing the units at their own risk, the spokesperson said, adding that county staff were offering residents assistance with temporary housing.

Increased attention to the condition of older high-rise buildings in South Florida and across the U.S. in the wake of the Champlain Towers collapse could lead to a rise in claims for loss-of-use coverage. In addition, many businesses in the vicinity of the collapse have been made inaccessible during the rescue operation, which could lead to business interruption claims.

Spotlight on building codes

Furthermore, this event could lead to a review of building codes and inspection practices nationwide. South Florida’s building codes are among the nation’s strongest – designed to keep residents safe from hurricanes. The state implemented mandatory codes after Category 5 Hurricane Andrew ripped homes from their foundations and left 65 dead in Homestead in 1992, and some counties – particularly in South Florida – have added more stringent requirements.

But after last week’s collapse, IBHS chief engineer Anne Cope said, “This is a moment like Katrina and Andrew, where we are going to learn something and make changes.”

Many of the region’s buildings – including  Champlain Towers South – were built before 1992 as part of a South Florida condo boom. Those buildings are subject to codes that were in place at the time of their construction, and are only required to undergo local county inspections every 40 years – such as the 2018 review of the Surfside condo in which an engineer raised red flags that the building was beginning to address but didn’t warn of imminent disaster.

A FEMA study last year said implementation of modern building codes could save states and localities billions of dollars.

Dear California:
As You Prep for Wildfire, Don’t Neglect Quake Risk

It’s important for people living in earthquake-prone areas to remember that standard homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover most earthquake damage.

For this reason, Janet Ruiz, Triple-I’s California-based director of strategic communication, advises people in the state to consider buying a policy that, at a minimum, covers the structure, building code upgrades, and emergency repairs.

“You can also get coverage for additional living expenses and personal property, and some companies even cover damaged swimming pools or masonry veneer,” Ruiz writes in a recent Op-Ed in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

As the South Napa and Ridgecrest earthquakes – in 2014 and 2019, respectively – recede from memory and wildfire readiness and resilience seem the more immediate need, Ruiz reminds Californians that even relatively mild tremors can inflict costly damage. She therefore encourages residents to reduce their risk through education, mitigation, and insurance.

There are a number of earthquake insurance providers in California. Many participate in the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), but some non-CEA insurers also provide options to help protect Californians from financial loss.

“CEA offers premium discounts to policyholders who have retrofitted, or strengthened, their older homes to help them better withstand shaking,” Ruiz writes.

In a separate Op-Ed, CEA CEO Glenn Pomeroy advises on retro-fitting older homes to be more quake resistant and resilient. Older homes – especially those built before 1980 – are more susceptible to earthquake damage because they predate modern seismic building codes. According to U.S. Census data, more than 53 percent of the housing units in San Diego County fall into that category of being built before 1980 and could be in need of retrofitting.

Seismic retrofitting can be straightforward and often not as expensive as homeowners might think. Depending on the type of retrofit needed, the work can usually be done in a couple of days, with costs ranging from $3,000 to $7,000.

“Compared to the potential cost of repairing an earthquake-damaged home,” Pomeroy writes, “spending a smaller amount of money to help prevent damage can help avoid a much bigger repair bill after an earthquake. Whatever the cost, it is a relatively small price to pay to protect the value of your home and, more importantly, make it safer for your family.”

Particularly important as the need for pandemic social distancing continues, Pomeroy points out, “Homeowners can remain inside their dwelling as workers do the job without entering the residence.”

Swiss Re: “Zombies”
Could Kill Recovery

Global pandemic.

Supply-chain disruptions.

Increasingly costly cyber-attacks.

Extreme weather and other climate-related hazards.

And now, zombies.

Swiss Re’s chief economist this week said failures of hundreds of “zombie companies” over the next few years are among the concerns prompting insurers to reduce risk and charge higher premiums – a trend that is likely to continue as corporate failures increase.

Zombies – companies that lack the cash flow to cover the cost of their debt – are “a ticking time bomb” whose effects will be felt as governments and central banks withdraw measures that have helped keep these companies alive during the pandemic, Jerome Haegeli told Reuters.

The sobering prediction comes as stock prices hit records and the U.S. economy appears headed for 6.5 percent growth this year. Haegeli said these strengths are illusory because they’re based on temporary fiscal and monetary support.

Insurers are being cautious: reining in underwriting risk, being more prudent about investment allocations, and even taking precautions on insuring operations and supply-chain risk.

“They are not getting fooled by the short-term picture,” Haegeli said. “If you look at the market today, everything looks great. However, it’s illusionary to think that this environment can last” as “life support” is withdrawn in coming months. And that, he said, will bring an increase in long-overdue bankruptcies.

It’s tempting to presume that, as the pandemic-driven aspects of the economic crisis are brought under control, recovery will proceed apace. After all, the economy was doing fine before the pandemic hit, right?

But in September the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) pointed to a “pre-pandemic increase in the number of persistently unprofitable firms, so-called ‘zombies’, which are particularly vulnerable to economic downturns.”

Before the pandemic, the BIS said, about 20 percent of listed firms in the United States and United Kingdom were zombies and 30 percent in Australia and Canada. By comparison, zombies constituted about 15 percent of listed companies in 14 advanced economies in 2017 and 4 percent before the 2008 financial crisis.

Absent any reason to believe these companies’ situations substantially improved during the pandemic or that the contagion didn’t spawn more zombies, the expectation of more corporate collapses seems reasonable.

Add to this rising losses due to hurricanes, severe convective storms, and wildfires; the threat of sea level rise; and the growing reality business and government disruption from cybercrime, and the likelihood of increasing premiums and reduced coverage limits seems strong.

Triple-I CEO: Insurance Leading on Climate Risk

Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan recently briefed regulators on the steps U.S. insurers are taking to reduce climate-related risks as weather-related catastrophes increase in frequency and severity.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues are in the insurance industry’s DNA, Sean said in a panel discussion hosted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) Climate and Resiliency Task Force.  “While ESG priorities may seem new to many industries, insurers have long been involved in understanding and addressing these and other risk factors as a fundamental part of doing business.” 

Speaking on the first day of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, Sean pointed out investment decisions made by leading insurers that he said will likely lead to carbon emission reductions.

“Insured losses caused by natural disasters have grown by nearly 700 percent since the 1980s, and four of the five costliest natural disasters in U.S. history have occurred over the past decade,” he said.

To illustrate the point, he showed an inflation-adjusted chart showing an annual averageof$5 billion in natural disaster-caused insured losses incurred in the 1980s. That figure jumped to an annual average of $35 billion in the 2010s, the same Triple-I analysis found. 

U.S. insurers paid out $67 billion in 2020 due to natural disasters. The insured losses emerged in part as the result of 13 hurricanes, five of the six largest wildfires in California’s history, and a derecho that caused significant damage in Iowa

Given the millions of Americans who live in harm’s way, the Triple-I launched its Resilience Accelerator initiative to help people and communities better manage risk and become more resilient, Sean said. The goal of the Triple-I’s Resilience Accelerator is to demonstrate the power of insurance as a force for resilience by telling the story of how insurance coverage helps governments, businesses and individuals recover faster and more completely after natural disasters.

“The insurance industry’s focus on resilience is starting to pay dividends as more Americans recognize the very real risks their residences face from floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters,” Sean continued.

A Triple-I Consumer Poll released in September 2020 found 42 percent of homeowners had made improvements to protect their homes from floods and 39 percent had done the same to protect their homes from hurricanes.

Download Sean’s slides

Man-made and Natural Hazards Both Demand
a Resilience Mindset

This weekend’s ransomware attack that forced the closure of the largest U.S. fuel pipeline provides another powerful illustration of the need for a resilience mindset that applies to more than just natural catastrophes.

Colonial Pipeline Co. operates a 5,500-mile system that transports fuel from refineries in the Gulf of Mexico to the New York metropolitan area. It said it learned Friday that it was the victim of the attack and “took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations.”

Individually, the event demonstrates the threat cybercriminals pose to the aging energy infrastructure that keeps the nation moving. More frighteningly, though, it is yet another example of how vulnerable the complex, interconnected global supply chain is to disruptions of all kinds – a message that isn’t lost on risk managers and insurers.

Last year, a ransomware attack moved from a natural-gas company’s networks into the control systems at a compression facility, halting operations for two days, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) alert

The DHS described the attack on an unnamed pipeline operator that halted operations for two days.  Although staff didn’t lose control of operations, the alert said the company didn’t have a plan in place for responding to a cyberattack.

“This incident is just the latest example of the risk ransomware and other cyber threats can pose to industrial control systems, and of the importance of implementing cybersecurity measures to guard against this risk,” a CISA spokesperson said at the time.

Not just energy companies

It isn’t only energy and industrial companies that need to be paying attention. According to cyber security firm VMware, attacks against the global financial sector increased 238 percent from the beginning of February 2020 to the end of April, with some 80 percent of institutions reporting an increase in attacks.

“Cyber is an existential issue for financial institutions, which is why they invest heavily in cyber security,” says Thomas Kang, Head of Cyber, Tech and Media, North America at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS). “However, with such potentially high rewards, cybercriminals will also invest time and money into attacking them.”

He pointed to two malware campaigns – known as Carbanak and Cobalt – that targeted over 100 financial institutions in more than 40 countries over five years, stealing over $1 billion.

An ACGS report shows technical failures and human error are the most frequent generators of cyber claims, but the financial impact of these is limited:

“Losses resulting from the external manipulation of computers, such as distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) or phishing and malware/ ransomware campaigns, account for the significant majority of the value of claims analyzed across all industry sectors (not just involving financial services companies).”

According to the report, regulators have turned their attention to cyber resilience and business continuity.

“Following a number of major outages at banks and payment processing companies, regulators have begun drafting business continuity requirements in a bid to bolster resilience.”

Not just cyber

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world a lot of lessons, not the least of which is how vulnerable the global supply chain – from toilet paper to semiconductors – is to unexpected disruptions. Demand for chlorine increased during 2020 as more people used their pools while stuck at home under social distancing orders and homeowners also began building pools at a faster rate, adding to the additional demand. Such disruptions can ripple through the economy in different directions.

Business interruption claims and litigation have been a significant feature of the pandemic for property and casualty insurers.

When the container ship Ever Given got wedged in the Suez canal – one of the most important arteries in global trade – freight traffic was completely blocked for six days. Even as movement resumed, terminals experienced congestion and the severe drop in vessel arrival and container discharge in major terminals aggravated existing shortages of empty containers available for exports. The ship’s owners and the Egyptian government remain locked in negotiations over compensation for the disruption, and the ship is still impounded.

Spurred in part by this event, the Japanese shipping community is considering alternative freight routes to Europe, both reliant on Russia: the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Northern Sea Route. Neither option is devoid of risks.

In an increasingly interconnected world, there is no bright line distinguishing man-made from natural disasters. After all, the Ever Given grounding was caused, at least in part, by a sandstorm. April’s power and water disruptions that left dozens of Texans dead and could end up being the costliest disaster in state history were initiated by a severe winter storm.

A resilience mindset focused on pre-emptive mitigation and rapid recovery is called for in both cases. There is no “either/or.”

Climate Risk Is Not a New Priority for Insurers

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s pledge to tackle climate change and warning about the economic consequences of failure to act underscore the fact that climate is no longer “merely” an ecological and humanitarian issue – real money is involved.

As long as climate was perceived as a pet project of academics and celebrity activists, driving behavioral change – particularly on the part of industries with billions invested in carbon-intensive technologies and processes – was going to be an uphill effort. But the Titanic has begun to turn, and no industry is better positioned than insurance to help right its course. Insurers are no strangers to climate-related risk – they’ve had a financial stake in it for decades.

Let’s look at the facts:

Global insured weather-related property losses have outpaced inflation by about 7 percent since 1950. Of the $1.7 trillion of global insured property loss reported since 1990, a third is from tropical cyclones, according to Aon data. Nine of the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred since 2004, and 2017, 2018, and 2019 represent the largest back-to-back-to-back insured property loss years in U.S. history.

Determining how much such losses are driven by climate versus other factors is complicated, and that’s part of the point.

“I know some have argued that this is a reason for us to move slowly,” Yellen said. “The thinking goes that because we know so little about climate risk, let’s be tentative in our actions—or even do nothing at all.  This is completely wrong in my view.  This is a major problem and it needs to be tackled now.”

Understanding the complexities of weather, climate, demographics, and other factors that contribute to loss trends requires data, analytical tools, and sophisticated modeling capabilities. Insurers invest heavily in these and other resources to be able to assess and price risk accurately. As a result, they’re uniquely well positioned to inform the conversation, drive action, and present solutions. 

And they’re leading by example.

Chubb Chairman and CEO Evan G. Greenberg is among the industry leaders who has been on the forefront of communicating about climate risk. When Chubb announced that it will not make new debt or equity investments in companies that generate more than 30 percent of revenues from coal mining or coal energy production, Greenberg said, “Making the transition to a low-carbon economy involves planning and action by policymakers, investors, businesses and citizens alike. The policy we are implementing today reflects Chubb’s commitment to do our part as a steward of the Earth.”

Swiss Re last month announced a similarly ambitious carbon reduction target of 35 percent by 2025 for its investment portfolio. Zurich Insurance Group last year announced the launch of its Climate Change Resilience Services to help businesses better prepare for current and future risks associated with climate. Aon annually publishes its Weather, Climate and Catastrophe Insight reports.

These are just a few examples of how the insurance industry already is recognizing its stake in addressing climate change and providing resources to help others attack the problem.  

Maritime Supply-Chain Vulnerabilities: Why This Won’t Be the Last Time
a Megaship Gets Stuck

By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I

(Photo by Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images)

When mega containership Ever Given wedged herself across a one-way section of the Suez Canal during a sandstorm last month, it brought 10 percent of global trade to a halt for a week. The ship – owned by Taiwanese container transportation and shipping company Evergreen Marine Corp. – was finally refloated and traffic in the canal was able to resume.

A Risk & Insurance cover story, published by Triple-I sister organization Risk & Insurance Group (RIG), describes how – in the context of a trend toward larger container vessels and a global supply chain already disrupted by COVID-19 – this incident should serve as a wake-up call for insurers.

Looking at the Ever Given grounding and disruption of canal traffic from a marine insurance perspective, RIG author Gregory DL Morris highlights the impact on cargo insurance claims and the potential for cargo spoilage. He also discusses compromised maneuverability of these massive vessels in high winds and references an increasing number of on-board fires, challenges surrounding salvage, and lack of suitable repair facilities, noting, “Underwriters need to be aware of this.”

Despite the likelihood that immediate property loss in this case will be minimal, megaships pose serious challenges to marine insurance and risk management. According to MDS Transmodal, a transport and logistics research firm, average vessels capacity grew 25 percent between 2014 and 2018, with ultra-large containerships accounting for 31 percent of the total capacity deployed in the second quarter of 2018. Transmodal attributes this trend to industry consolidation through mergers and acquisitions, as well as growing trade lane co-operation through alliances, slot sharing, and vessel-sharing agreements.

Even as traffic through the canal resumes, terminals will experience congestion. In addition, the severe drop in vessel arrival and container discharge in major terminals will aggravate existing shortages of empty containers available for exports. Delays in shipments, increased costs, and product shortages are therefore likely. 

“The fact is that an already heavily disrupted maritime supply chain has taken another hit that will further affect its fluidity, with long-term consequences related to congestions, lead times and predictability,” said Jens Roemer, chair of the Sea Transport Working Group of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders.

While traffic through the canal is now moving, the global supply chain’s vulnerabilities may only now be beginning to become clear.

“Whether a blizzard in Texas or a sandstorm in Egypt,” Morris writes, “the narrow focus on minimal inventories that rely upon just-in-time delivery leaves little allowance for weather or accident.”

“Lightning Round” Highlights Technologies Reopening the Economy

Public discussion about re-opening the economy after COVID-19 has mostly revolved around the safety, efficacy, and availability of various vaccines. But in the longer term, other measures and new technologies will be key to getting back to normal and being prepared for future public health emergencies.

Last week’s Lightning Round V: Reopening America in the Post-Pandemic Scenario – a collaboration between Triple-I’s Resilience Accelerator, ResilientH20 Partners, and The Cannon – featured three technologies that promise to help facilitate the recovery.

Workplace workflow

Tomer Mann, executive vice president of business development for 22 Miles, discussed his company’s “digital experience platform,” which incorporates temperature-scanning technology, touchless kiosks, virtual concierge, and other applications to provide social distance among customers and employees and early warning of possible infection in business settings.   

“In March, when we were seeing a lot of the temperature-scanning solutions coming out of China, we realized we could leverage our software to pivot and create a more secure solution, avoiding some of the sensors that are coming out of China that are blacklisted in the trade market and avoiding some of the data breach implications,” Mann said.

22 Miles’ “workplace workflow” starts at a building’s lobby, using facemask and temperature detection and including badge integration and access control for employees and guests. For companies using shared workspaces, the system tracks what spaces are being used to facilitate sanitization between uses. To minimize physical contact while maximizing interactivity, the system’s components can be activated using voice, gesture, or mobile device.

In addition to facilitating safe, hygienic use of these spaces, the system captures large amounts of data that can provide warnings of possible infections and inform modifications to the workflow.

Scrubbing the air

Santiago Mendoza, senior vice president with Integrated Viral Protection, spoke about his company’s indoor air protection system, which has been shown to capture and destroy coronavirus at a 99-plus percentage rate. The system has shown similar results when tested with anthrax spores and other airborne pathogens.

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are “super spreaders” of coronavirus and other pathogens, Mendoza said, adding that most filter systems only catch and don’t kill them. 

“Our system heats up to almost 400 degrees Fahrenheit and destroys the pathogens,” he said.

The IVP system is available for commercial and residential uses and has been installed in hospitality venues, health facilities, and schools across the United States, Mendoza said. It comes in multiple sizes, including a personal unit for travelers to use in hotel rooms and other closed spaces.

Early warning in water

Jennings Heussner, business development manager for BioBot Analytics, a wastewater epidemiology company, explained how BioBot went from testing for opioids to tracking coronavirus.

“We analyze wastewater coming into treatment plants for human health markers,” Heussner said. The company originally was focused on the opioid epidemic, helping communities better understand the nature of their local opioid problems to better inform their public health response.

When the pandemic hit, BioBot expanded its focus and became the first company in the United States to identify the presence of the virus in wastewater.

Leveraging existing wastewater sampling processes, BioBot analyzes the sample and reports back within one business day after receiving it, providing a quick, inexpensive, comprehensive early warning system.

Ready and resilient

Such technologies will be essential parts of building a pandemic-ready and resilient society. Anticipating and addressing outbreaks early can help alleviate health-related and business-interruption concerns and head off insurance claims.

Just as the insurance industry played a vital role in improving vehicle safety, infrastructure, building codes, and more, insurers and risk managers – partnering with policymakers, businesses, homeowners, and others – will help determine which of these emerging solutions will endure.