Tag Archives: extreme weather

Are Sharknados Next?

Many years ago, when I watched “Biloxi Blues,” the Neil Simon play about a young draftee suffering through basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi, I laughed hard at the way actor Matthew Broderick whined the line, “Man, it’s hot. It’s like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn’t take this kind of hot.”

I’m not laughing now. I can’t swear that Tarzan couldn’t take the “kind of hot” we’re experiencing in California, but I’m certainly struggling. The high temperatures in the Central Valley have exceeded 110 for several days now and are expected to be between 100 and 110 for as far as the eye can see on weather forecasts. Even in the Lake Tahoe area, where I’ve spent many a pleasant summer, temperatures are so high and wood so dry that four fires have produced the Reno, Nev., weather station’s first report of fire tornados — the fires literally produced tornados of flame and laid waste to tens of thousands of acres.

What’s next? Sharknados? And what, if anything, can we do?

Well, there certainly doesn’t seem to be a break coming any time soon, and not just in California. While I whine about highs of maybe 113 in Northern California and the rolling brownouts and blackouts, Death Valley recorded 130 degrees down south, thought to be the world’s highest temperature since 1931, and forecasts are for the heat wave to be unrelenting. Meanwhile, in Iowa, a derecho — a wide line of fast-moving storms characterized by winds that can reach hurricane force, by tornados and by heavy rains — devastated 12.4 million acres of soybeans and corn early last week. A city council member in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said trees are piled six to 10 feet high along streets — “It’s like driving through a tunnel of green.” The East Coast is facing its 11th named tropical storm so far this year, forming in the Atlantic, even though the 11th storm usually isn’t named until well into October. (Storms are named when they reach a certain threat level.)

While the U.S. gets most of the focus just now, Siberia has had a crazy heat wave of its own. A town named Verkhoyansk just recorded a temperature of 100 degrees. That may not seem that extreme, but the town is in the Arctic Circle. It was previously known for tying the lowest temperature on record, at minus-90.

You can decide for yourself just how severe climate change will be and how quickly it will occur, but trend lines on heat certainly suggest to me that this won’t be the last summer when I complain about Tarzan-level heat and when my friends on the East Coast have to batten down the hatches in the face of a string of hurricanes.

The only thing I know to suggest is to prepare. We had authors predicting a bad hurricane season last spring, such as in this article from May 10. We’ve also published extensively on better ways to understand wildfire risk, including in a three-part series whose first piece, dated July 6, is here. The articles describe what seems to be a promising way to correlate various risks, even when the areas involved are not near each other.

I’d love to be able to offer ways to head off the sort of devastation that, say, Iowans are facing, but I don’t imagine it’d do much good for me to tell the sun not to shine and the winds not to blow. So, better preparation is about all we can do for now.

The sorts of improvements in modeling described in those articles on hurricanes and wildfires can help. So can better sensors. Tiny, inexpensive weather stations dotting the countryside might pick up the signs of a derecho or other major storm faster than we can now.

Technology is also starting to help us react faster once tragedy strikes. Reports from the devastation in Iowa came in quickly, thanks to aerial surveys by drones, so recovery can started promptly. Parametric insurance policies or provisions written into standard policies can make a certain percentage of a claim available almost immediately, helping the insured get back on his or her feet faster.

There are even the beginnings of hope on prevention. Strings of small satellites that various companies are launching will monitor the Earth in real time and spot blazes when they are far smaller than most are when identified now. But that’s mostly theory at this point. It’ll take some time to implement.

This will be a slog. We’ll do our best to keep you updated on promising developments and hope you’ll pass along any ideas you have.

In the meantime, stay cool, stay dry and stay away from those fire tornados.

Paul

P.S. Here are the six articles I’d like to highlight from the past week:

COVID: Chance to Rethink Workers Comp

As insurers worry that the pandemic is depressing premiums, here is a way to rethink workers’ comp — plus two entirely new product ideas.

Why COVID-19 Must Accelerate Change

According to a survey, insurers are 50% behind consumer demand for service via online chat and 25% behind on service via website.

COVID-19 Sparks Revolution in Claims

The pandemic has pushed workers’ comp toward telehealth, which is revolutionizing the claims process in four key ways.

5 Hurdles to Insurtech Success

Here are five things that stand between insurtechs and success — but, please note, your mileage may vary.

Watch for This 1 Word on Customer Needs

Use this simple technique to uncover customer needs, drive innovation in customer experience and keep your business ahead of the curve.

An Inconvenient Sales Truth

It is no longer enough to show up with a fancy spreadsheet, promises of better service and a capabilities presentation.

Grasping the Perils of Extreme Weather

In 2018, extreme weather had a devastating impact on certain states – primarily driven by increasing severity, rather than frequency, of catastrophic events. LexisNexis Risk Solutions‘ recently released, fourth annual Home Trends Report highlights the impact that the 2018 extreme weather events had on insurance losses. A staggering 56% of all catastrophe claims come from just four states: California, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina.

States hit by Hurricanes Florence and Michael, the California wildfires and severe hail saw the most catastrophic losses. Claims in these states are also up to 56% from the 36% of claims these states accounted for in 2017. The latest Home Trends Report underscores the growing need for insurers to understand and respond to by-peril loss trends and the potential for climate change and extreme weather to drive these losses.

While fire losses have continued to increase since 2012, catastrophe claims accounted for nearly 40% of fire losses in 2018 – the highest in a decade and a significant jump from the previous high of 15%. As a result of hurricane devastation to North Carolina and Florida, 2018 was also the worst year on record for wind claim severity, up 15% from 2017. Hurricane devastation also led to a costlier September in North Carolina, with loss costs 17 times more than a typical September. While Colorado was unaffected by the hurricanes and wildfires, the state ranked the highest in loss cost overall for 2018, as well as the highest over the six-year period (2013-2018) that the study tracks. In terms of hail, Texas continued to top the nation for claims, representing 29% of total volume.

See also: The Future of Home Maintenance  

The report highlights some of the challenges that home insurance carriers face in managing by-peril risks, including increasing severity and unpredictability of weather-related patterns and their impact on catastrophic claims. The report also underscores how it is imperative that home insurance carriers collect, analyze and use aggregated by-peril data to help generate a deeper understanding of the risks associated with a particular location and of how to price future policies accordingly. For the long term, aggregated by-peril data can enable more accurate pricing, a healthier book of business.

If you are interested in learning more about the impact of extreme weather events on insurance losses, click here for the LexisNexis Home Trends Report.

What Can Derail an Important Event?

As Brazil copes with the Zika-virus outbreak, political turmoil, civil unrest, crime, water sanitation and the looming threat of terrorist attacks, thousands of athletes, fans and officials are making their final preparations for the Summer Olympics. While none of the crises look likely to derail the Rio 2016 Games, the list of concerns reads like the list of covered exposures in a well-designed cancellation of event insurance policy.

The International Olympic Committee is not alone in struggling to cope with the world of extreme events. Just look at some major sporting events that have recently been canceled, relocated or postponed:

  • National Football League (Buffalo)
  • English Premier League (Manchester United)
  • Major League Baseball (Pittsburgh and Miami)
  • Southeastern Conference Football (LSU and Tennessee)

If the list were to be expanded beyond sports, the number of concerts, events and conventions suffering the same fate is too large to compile. So, what should be considered when planning an important event, whether large or small?

Infectious diseases:

Zika is the latest of many infectious diseases to result in global travel advisories, the banning of large concentrations of people or implementation of public health control measures Communicable disease resulting in quarantine or restriction in people movement by a national or international body or agency is simply one exposure that concerned parties can eliminate through effective use of insurance solutions.

See also: How to Think About the Zika Virus

Extreme weather:

In today’s world of extreme weather events, once remote weather-related possibilities are becoming more and more frequent. Previously safe geographic areas have experienced hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, snowstorms, hailstorms, etc., all of which can leave event planners madly scrambling to determine the extent of damage incurred and whether their carefully choreographed event can go on. Even if the adverse weather does not damage the venue(s) of the event itself, the mega-facility guidelines of the nation may require the requisition of the venue by emergency personnel or evacuees in the event of a hurricane, wildfire, dam-breaking or some other catastrophe.

Terrorism:

Despite recent World Health Organization warnings, foremost in the worries of most risk managers for large-scale events is the rise of terrorist actions worldwide. Protection against terrorist acts can be included in cancellation of event policies for an additional cost. Such coverage would typically exclude the use of nuclear, chemical or biological materials, or radioactive contamination post-Fukushima, but even these eventualities can be covered if a thorough market analysis is conducted. Many policies do not require that a terrorist event actually take place; they can be designed to protect an entity’s financial interest if the event is affected by the mere threat of terrorism, if the threat is confirmed by a recognized competent authority on the state, national or international level.

Key person coverage:

For events that rely on the attendance of certain personnel, performers or speakers, organizers can buy coverage specifically protecting against the non-appearance of key people.

Public sector strikes:

Public sector strikes, particularly those involving transportation services, and damage or loss of utility service to a venue also lead to many events being canceled, relocated, postponed or interrupted and are all insurable exposures.

Business interruption coverage:

Contingency insurance exists to provide protection for the expenses an entity occurs in organizing an event as well as the revenue the event should generate for the organizers, promoters, municipalities, etc. There is no “boiler-plate” solution for a specific event. It is essential that the event organizers and insurance representatives spend time evaluating the actual financial exposures the entity has. Expenses are normally the easiest to determine because they are fixed costs. However, many streams of revenue are often ignored if too much attention is given to the largest items, such as ticket sales, instead of supplementary income generated from merchandise sales, concessions, sales, lost sponsorship monies or even parking fees for attendees.

See also: The Defining Issue for Financial Markets

It is equally essential to determine who the financial responsibility ultimately rests with. Sponsorship contracts serve as a good example of complex obligations. If a corporation has agreed to spend millions to be the signature sponsor of an event, and the event is moved to a different venue where companies other than the sponsor already occupy desired signs and exposure, it should be determined if the expense is a sunk cost to the sponsor or if the hosting party has to reimburse the sponsor. This contract clause should dictate who receives the insurance policy benefit. Experience in determining financial exposure that each party incurs when events are in their initial planning stages is invaluable when custom-designing insurance policies to cover all possible financial liabilities.

It is only a matter of time before a global spectacle of an event is canceled due to an unforeseen peril. While the emotional loss experienced by the participants and attendees is high, the financial impact can be mitigated or completely eliminated through the insurance market.