Author Archives: Cynthia Horiguchi

About Cynthia Horiguchi

Senior Marketing Manager, RMS
Cynthia is responsible for content creation and marketing program management as a member of RMS' corporate marketing team. She focuses on creating content to help customers at each stage of the buying cycle, as well as developing marketing programs to highlight innovation at RMS – from the RMS(one) platform to social innovation that helps create a safer and more resilient society. She is based in RMS' Silicon Valley headquarters and has degrees in public relations and political science from the University of Southern California.

RMS.com’s New Look

As you may have noticed, RMS.com has a new look and new features. The new site is aimed at delivering the full range of information you need – everything from our products and services, to the latest research and perspectives on industry hot topics, to recent goings-on at RMS.

A few things we hope you’ll get from the new RMS.com:

  • A better understanding of our products and services
    The new RMS.com is designed with you in mind. It features a clearer articulation of RMS products, including models and data by peril, as well as a more robust showcase of our technology and services. Each page includes timely resources such as blog posts, product announcements, and reports, to keep you updated on the most relevant topics.
  • More ways to continue the conversation
    See something that sparks your imagination? Have questions about one of our products? Our new site makes it easier to contact us and share your views. We hope you find the content to be a compelling catalyst for ongoing conversations about how we can help your business, and drive the industry forward together.
  • A clear, concise view from anywhere
    The clean design and streamlined text helps you quickly access the information you need from any device. The responsive design delivers a seamless experience whether you’re viewing on your desktop, tablet, or mobile phone.

The new RMS.com also complements our client portal, RMS Owl, which provides critical business information and services, from product datasheets to customer support, and more.

This is a new beginning: We will continually add content and new functionality as we anticipate your evolving needs. We hope you’ll visit and cruise around the new site and let us know what you think!

Water, Water Everywhere: The Effect of Climate Change on Florida

Climate change has been a hot topic in Florida for quite some time. Just last week, President Obama visited the Everglades to discuss the need to address climate change now.

RMS partnered with the Risky Business Initiative to quantify and publicize the economic risks the United States faces from the impacts of a changing climate. In Florida, there is a 1% chance that by 2100, 17% of current Florida property value will be underwater, causing a $20.7 billion increase in annual flooding losses, and $681 billion worth of property loss due to sea level rise.

Bob Correll, principal at the Global Environment Technology Foundation leading the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions: Just last week a report commissioned by the G7 was released to the foreign ministers, including Secretary of State John Kerry, titled “A New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risk.” It outlines seven things we need to worry about as the changing climate becomes more evident, including sea-level rise and coastal degradation.

Brian Soden, atmospheric sciences professor, University of Miami: Sea level rise is the impact of climate change that I’m most worried about. The rate of sea level rise has almost doubled in Miami over the past decade. We are the canary in the coal mine. If you increase sea level by just three feet, which is in the middle of the range of projections, the Everglades would pretty much be gone.

Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer, RMS: At RMS we attempt to be completely objective about risk. We attempt to take the full scientific understanding and translate it into information about risk and the associated cost. Financial markets are smart. Future risk is already starting to affect the current value of property.

Matthew Nielson, senior director of global governmental and regulatory affairs, RMS: Regulations generally fall into two buckets: curbing emissions so we can temper this problem and thinking about future development and planning to account for future sea level rise.

But what do we do now? There are a lot of things to think about – one is drainage issues. Another is access to fresh water.

Paul Wilson, senior director of model development and lead modeler for the Risky Business Initiative, RMS: It will be interesting to see how things play out – if the response will come as a result of science and gradual sea level rise, or only after a major catastrophe.

Muir-Wood: It’s very hard for communities to take action until they’ve had a disaster. As we’ve seen with Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, suddenly there’s all sorts of enlightened thinking about future risk, such as investments in sea defenses. Unfortunately, it often takes a catastrophe to impact on decisions about mitigating risk.

Paul VanderMarck, chief products officer, RMS: You can only build a sea wall so high before it’s not worth living here anymore.

Soden: The biggest question I ask myself is “when do I sell?”

Correll: A year ago the WEF came to us and asked if we would be willing to work with their young global leaders. We had the head of all Shell operations in the Middle East. We had the former head of GE operations in India. They are getting the message. They walked away saying, “we need to rethink our business plans to plan for the future.”

Modeling provides a lot of the underpinnings to make decisions that are outside of the norm. The past is no longer a prologue to the future.

Risk, Models, and Innovations: It’s All Interconnected

A few themes came through loud and clear during this morning’s keynote sessions at Exceedance 2015.

RMS’ commitment to modeling innovation was unmistakable. As RMS co-founder and CEO Hemant Shah highlighted on stage, RMS worked hard and met our commitment to release RiskLink version 15 on March 31, taking extra measures to ensure the quality of the product.

Over the past five years, RMS has released 210 model upgrades and 35 new models. With a 30% increase in model development resources over the last two years and 10 HD models in various stages of research and development, RMS has the most robust model pipeline in its history.

As Paul Wilson explained, HD models are all about providing better clarity into the risk. They are a more precise representation of the way a physical damage results in a (re)insurance loss, with a more precise treatment of propagation of uncertainty through the model, designed to deal with losses as closely as possible as the way claims occur in real life.

HD models are the cornerstone of the work RMS is doing in model development right now. HD models represent the intersection of RMS research, science and technology. With HD models we are not limited by software – we can approach the challenge of modeling risk in exciting new ways.

And it’s more than just the models – RMS is committed to transparency, engagement, and collaboration.

RMS’ commitment to RMS(one) was also clear. Learning from the lessons of the past year, RMS developing an open platform that’s not just about enabling RMS to build its own models. It’s an exposure and risk management platform that’s about enabling clients and partners to build models. It’s about analytics, dynamic risk management and more.

RMS(one) will be released, judiciously and fully-matured, in stages over the next 15 months,starting with a model evaluation environment for our first HD Model, Europe Flood, in autumn 2015.

And, Hemant emphasized that starting later this calendar year, RMS will open the platform to its clients and partners with the Platform Development Kit (PDK).

In addition, RMS(one) pricing will be built around three core principles:

  • Simple, predictable packages
  • In most cases, no additional fees for clients who simply want continuity in their RMS modeling relationships
  • Clearly differentiated high-value packages at compelling prices for those who wish to benefit from RMS(one) beyond its replacement as a superior modeling utility to RiskLink

The overall goal of RMS’ commitment to modeling and technology innovation is to capitalize on a growing and ever-changing global (re)insurance market, ultimately building a more resilient global society. RMS is working with industry clients and partners to do so by understanding emerging risks, identifying new opportunities to insure more risk, developing new risk transfer products, and creating new ways of measuring risk.

As Ben Brookes said, we only have to look at the recent events in Nepal to understand that there are huge opportunities – and needs – to improve resilience and the management of risk. RMS’ work for Metrocat, a catastrophe bond designed specifically to protect the New York MTA’s infrastructure against storm surge, showed the huge potential for the developing alternate methods of risk transfer in order to improve resilience.

And during his session, Daniel Stander pointed out that only 1.9% of the global economy is insured. As the world’s means of production shifts from assets to systems, RMS is working to understand how to understand systems of risk, starting with marine, supply chain, and cyber risk, tackling tough questions such as:

  • What are the choke points in the global shipping network, and how do they respond under stress?
  • How various events create a ripple effect that impact the global supply chain – for example, why did the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan cause a shortage of iPads in Australia, halt production at BMW in Germany, and enable a booming manufacturing industry in Guangzhou?
  • How do we measure cyber risk when technology has become so critical that it is systemically important to the global economy?

global shipping

Leaving the keynotes, a clear theme rang true: as the world becomes more interconnected, it is the intersection of innovation in science and technology that will enable us to scale and solve global problems head on.

Your Excellent Questions On Earthquakes

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake which rocked California’s San Francisco Bay Area on October 17, 1989. To commemorate the anniversary and raise awareness about resilience against earthquakes, Dr. Robert Muir-Wood, RMS chief research officer, and Dr. Patricia Grossi, RMS senior director of global earthquake modeling, hosted a Reddit Science AMA (Ask Me Anything).

They discussed a number of topics; participants expressed curiosity not just for routine details like the best immediate action in the event of a quake, but also what fault lines are at risk and the finer points of earthquake insurance.

Here are just a few of the subjects they tackled in a conversation that generated close to 200 comments by Thursday afternoon – you can also read the entire Reddit thread.

Is the Bay Area is better prepared [now] than for the Loma Prieta quake? What role have you (or other scientists) played in planning?

Grossi: There’s been a lot of work by PG&E, BART, and other agencies to mitigate earthquake risk – as well as the new span of the Bay Bridge. In addition, the California Earthquake Authority has been encouraging mitigation – and have mitigation incentives if you retrofit your home to withstand earthquake ground shaking. Scientists can help by creating strategic plans or perform cost-benefit analyses for mitigation/retrofit.

Is there a link between fracking and earthquakes?

Muir-Wood: The term ‘earthquake’ can cover an enormous range of sizes of energy release. Fracking may sometimes trigger small shallow earthquakes or tremors. One day there might be a bigger earthquake nearby and people will argue over whether it was linked to the fracking. The link, however, will remain tenuous.

Am I being overcharged for earthquake insurance? I was charged $1,500 a year with a 15 percent deductible.

Grossi: Premiums associated with the coverage seem high (as generally double premiums here in California). However, they are based on price-based pricing. The coverage is meant to be a ‘minimum’ coverage – and provide protection for the worst-case scenario.

Is Tokyo due for another big earthquake?

Muir-Wood: The Big One happened beneath Tokyo in 1923, and before that a similar Big One (not quite on the same fault) occurred in 1703. The 1923 earthquake is not so likely to come around again. However, there was a M7 earthquake in 1855 that occurred right under Tokyo and may be the type of damaging earthquake we can expect. It could do a lot of damage.

 

Was there anything we missed you wanted to discuss? Please let us know in the comments. 

The Next Big One: Expert Advice On Planning For The Inevitable

The 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake provides an opportunity to remember and reflect about what we lost. It also offers an opportunity to think about how we can better plan and prepare for an inevitable earthquake on the Bay Area’s precarious fault lines.

While we can’t accurately predict when an earthquake will strike, we can say there’s more at risk here then there was in 25 years ago; the Bay Area’s population has grown 25 percent and the value of residential property is now $1.2 trillion. A worst-case, magnitude 7.9 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault could strike an urban center with 32 times the destructive force of Loma Prieta, potentially causing commercial and residential property losses over $200 billion.

As part of our activities around the Loma Prieta anniversary, we gathered experts at a roundtable to discuss how to improve resilience in the Bay Area. Here are some of their lessons and observations:

Patrick Otellini, Chief Resilience Officer, San Francisco
Think about people when crafting public policy:

Preparing for an earthquake is an enormous task. San Francisco is working to retrofit 4,800 buildings during the next seven years. You have to get the right people at the table when crafting policy changes and understand how citizens will be affected. There needs to be a dual focus: protect the public interest while building consensus on changes that protect safety and health.

Dr. Patricia Grossi, Earthquake expert and senior director of product model management, RMS
Don’t short change risk modeling:

Risk modeling helps us assess how we are planning for the next big event, highlights uncertainties and leads to thorough preparation. But any analysis shouldn’t just consider dollar signs; it should analyze the worst-case scenario and what an earthquake would do to our lives in the immediate days and weeks after.

Kristina Freas, Director of Emergency Preparedness, Dignity Health
Retrofit hospitals and prepare to help the most vulnerable:

Hospitals are little cities. The same issues with supplies and logistics affecting metropolitan areas in a disaster would affect hospitals. Hospitals need to have plans to mitigate damages from water and power loss and protect patients.

Danielle Hutchings Mieler, Resilience Program Coordinator for the Association of Bay Area Governments
Bridge the private and public gap in infrastructure repair:

There’s been progress in retrofitting public buildings. But many private facilities – homes, businesses and private schools – are vulnerable. This is problematic because the Bay Area is growing in areas like the shoreline, which are close to fault lines and at greater risk. Work is needed to ensure that all types of buildings – both private and public – are well prepared and sturdy.

Lewis Knight, planning and urban design practice leader, Gensler
Think different about infrastructure and retrofitting:

Many engineering firms report to Wall Street and big infrastructure. They aren’t truly considering changes that need to be made to protect communities affected by both earthquake risk and climate change. There needs to be frank discussions about how infrastructure can be part of a defense against natural disasters.

What else is crucial to consider when thinking about the next earthquake?

Infographic: When the "Big One" Hits

Rammasun is One of the Strongest Typhoons to Hit Southeast China in Recent Years

RMS closely monitored typhoon Rammasun last week as it picked up strength en route to the Philippines. The world also watched, remembering the catastrophic damage typhoon Haiyan caused last November. While Rammasun did not wreak as much havoc as Haiyan, it still left a trail of damaged buildings and flooded crop fields in the Phillipines, southeast China and Vietnam. Below, RMS looks at the property damage and insurance industry implications as the typhoon hit both denser commercial metropolitan areas and agricultural provinces.

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RMS reports that on Friday, July 19 Super typhoon Rammasun, one of the strongest to hit southeast China in recent years, made three landfalls in the provinces of Hainan, Guangdong, and Guangxi.

Rammasun has significantly impacted the Philippines, southeast China and Vietnam. Rammasun brought strong winds, heavy rain, and storm surge to some coastal areas with close to 300,000 buildings damaged in the affected countries.

In China, damaging wind and floods have destroyed at least 37,000 homes and ravaged 468,500 hectares of crops in Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. Virtually all brick-and-tile houses in the town of Wengtian, Hainan were either destroyed or had their roofs removed. Within a 24 hour period up to 15 inches of rain fell in the city of Haikou; the week before Rammasun hit, the southeastern provinces were reportedly experiencing heavy floods, which have only been exacerbated by the typhoon.

“Typhoon-related flood, which includes both rainfall driven and coastal flooding, contributes as much as 80% to typhoon average annual loss in China, with the coastal provinces driving the loss,” said Nikki Chambers, hazards scientist at RMS. “July to October are the most active months for typhoons in this region. On average 6 typhoons make landfall a year in China and typhoon Rammasun highlights the importance of accounting for all sources of typhoon losses, of which flood is the main driver.” Insurance penetration is extremely low in China particularly for residential risk, slightly higher for commercial and industrial lines of business. On average, about 15% of property risk in China is insured. Insurance penetration varies by province; Hainan has one of the lowest insurance penetrations in China. Guangdong is one of the more prosperous provinces; it is the second largest province for property insurance purchases, with 41.7 billion yuan (US$6.8 billion) in direct premiums for property insurance in 2012, according to the China Insurance Regulatory Commission.

Philippines

The typhoon wreaked havoc earlier in the week in the northern Philippines, which is still rebuilding after Typhoon Haiyan. Rammasun made its first landfall in the largely agricultural provinces south of the capitol Manila, leaving 94 people dead, and over 111,000 houses damaged, of which nearly 28,000 have been totally destroyed and 83,000 have been partially damaged., Based on analysis from the RMS Philippines Economic Exposure Database, the impacted provinces in the Philippines from Rammasun contains over 100 bn USD of insurable commercial building exposure, 80 bn USD of industrial building insurable exposure, and over 215bn USD of residential building exposure. Based on the RMS Philippines industrial cluster catalog, industry is clustered around metro Manila and in areas to the north and south of the capital in Central Luzon, which are located within the affected area of Rammasun. The insurance penetration rates in the Philippines is relatively low, though higher for commercial and industrial lines of business and will be centred around Manila and the industrial zones.

Vietnam

In northern Vietnam, Typhoon Rammasun made landfall Saturday morning, causing heavy flooding. At least eight people have died and it has affected more than 6,000 homes. The typhoon has damaged 3,300 hectares of rice and other crops and disrupted traffic in the region. Typhoon, Matmo, with maximum winds of 150km/h, is now threatening the area ravaged by Rammasun. RMS is monitoring the situation closely.

INFOGRAPHIC: Storm Surge, Front and Center of Hurricane Preparedness

See below for full infographic

See below for full infographic

Storm surge should be a top priority when it comes to tropical-storm preparedness, as the 2014 hurricane season outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) points out. Our explanatory infographic puts storm surge into perspective. This is particularly important for the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts, where much of the land is 10 feet or more below sea level. NOAA announced a new storm-warning policy for this hurricane season to publicize its storm-surge graphics and mapping capabilities.

RMS Infographic Storm SurgeHigh resolution versions of this infographic are available for download here.

 

What Disaster Models Tell Us About U.S. Tornado Risk

This week’s deadly tornadoes in the South cut a swath of devastation through several states. The disaster also brought a shattering end to what had been a relatively quiet start to the usual peak U.S. tornado period. We asked Matthew Nielsen, director of RMS model product management, about the company’s tornado models and what they say about the rest of this year’s tornado season.

Q: What did RMS modeling reveal going into the 2014 tornado season?

Nielsen: RMS modeling revealed the elevated risk found in areas of the Southeast, specifically the heightened tornado risk from long-track storms. We tend to find that while the frequency of tornadoes in states like Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi is not as high as states in the Tornado Alley, the tornadoes that do occur in these states tend to persist much longer on the ground and affect more exposure.

Q: What is the general financial and economic impact of tornadoes as compared to other catastrophes?

Nielsen: Tornadoes tend to have very high damage ratios, meaning that most locations in its path will suffer extreme to total damage. If a tornado hits an exposure center with high-value commercial or industry risks, losses can easily pass the $1 billion mark. While tornadoes tend to have much smaller and more focused paths than hurricanes, they can inflict heavy losses to the exposure they affect, and have historically been known to cause losses in excess of $2 billion to $3 billion for a single tornado track.

Q: What has made the current tornado outbreak span multiple days and multiple regions?

Nielsen: The current outbreak has persisted for several days over a very similar region due to the very slow moving nature of the low-pressure system. This is also related to the persistence and stubbornness of the atmosphere this season. Given the overlapping areas of intense thunderstorms over the last few days, flash flooding is becoming more of an issue due to repeated periods of intense rainfall.

Q: Based on the information available, what’s in store for the rest of the season after having a slow start but recently picking up steam?

Nielsen: On one hand, the storm door may now be open, and we could see a very active May. We are now reaching the climatological peak of the severe convective storm season; May is typically the highest activity month in the U.S. The overall weather pattern over North America has been very stubborn and persistent this year, as we saw with the frequency and duration of cold weather over the eastern half of the continent, and warm, dry weather over the west coast. It is possible that activity may continue at this heightened pace for several weeks.

Conversely, given how quickly it went from active to inactive over the last week, it could also transition back to a relatively quiet phase for the next few months. There is a lot of uncertainty as to how the rest of the season may play out.

As the season progresses, we should start seeing more activity over the traditional Tornado Alley states, with less activity over the Southeast U.S. Activity this time of year is usually more focused around the southern Plains states like Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi usually experience their activity peaks in the late winter to early spring months of February and March.

Matthew Nielsen. Director, Model Product Management, RMS

Matthew Nielsen. Director, Model Product Management, RMS

Matthew is a meteorologist and geographer with extensive experience in catastrophe risk in North America. At RMS, he is responsible for the development of the RMS climate-peril models for the Americas, including the severe-convective storm, winter storm, flood, wildfire and hurricane models. He has conducted field reconnaissance for major catastrophes including Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Greensburg tornado in 2007, the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  Matthew has been instrumental in regulatory outreach for RMS in the U.S. He liaises regularly with regulators in 15 states to establish open channels of communication about the use of RMS models and solutions. Prior to RMS, Matthew was a graduate research assistant at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) where he authored a thesis on remote sensing in satellite meteorology.  

Matthew holds a master’s degree in atmospheric science from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Ripon College, where he won the Henry Knop Award in Physics. 

He is a member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the International Society of Catastrophe Managers (ISCM), and the American Association of Geographers (AAG).

Discussing Risk and Resiliency at the Clinton Global Initiative

This week I attended the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Winter Meeting alongside RMS’ chief research officer Robert Muir Wood. RMS recently joined the CGI and is working to develop the programs that the company will enact to effect change, known as CGI Commitments.

Robert was invited to give a kick-off presentation for the “Response and Resilience” breakout session, where members and prospective members from a wide range of backgrounds –corporations, non-profits, and NGOs – came together to discuss pressing problems in the field.

Participants of the Clinton Global Initiative  Winter Meeting discuss "Response and Resilience"

Participants of the Clinton Global Initiative Winter Meeting discuss “Response and Resilience”

To set the tone for the conversation, Robert discussed risk mapping and underscored how important understanding risk is to resilience. After all, to be resilient is to be resilient to something.

While there are many ways of defining risk, one way of thinking about it is:

Risk = Hazard x Exposure x Vulnerability

As Robert explained, mapping risk is a way of communicating information. By conceptualizing risk, we can evaluate it and determine how to minimize it.

With that in mind, the Response and Resilience track participants broke into groups to discuss case studies ranging from Hurricane Sandy to floods in the Sudan and Syrian refugees in Jordan. Attendees were asked to consider topics such as

  • How to improve response to similar events
  • How NGOs and the private sector can collaborate more effectively
  • How organizations on the ground can take advantage of real-time risk data

While the case studies up for discussion were diverse, a few common themes emerged:

  • Community Engagement: In the first few days immediately following a catastrophic event, help from governments and large organizations is hindered by processes and logistics. First response is very localized – neighbors help other neighbors, local emergency services often operate while cut off from central organizations. Engagement at the local level is important to improve ties among community members and provide training so that neighborhoods can react appropriately in the case of a catastrophe.
  • Networking: With improved networking, community members can help each other more effectively and outsiders can more easily determine how to assist. Many people now take to social media during crises, posting information about trouble areas, linking to resources for fellow victims, and even calling for rescue when trapped. People are using technology to connect beyond their communities. During Hurricane Sandy, people took to Amazon’s gift registry to fulfill desperately needed requests. Donations were tied directly to actual needs, not made based on assumptions of victims’ needs.
  • Preparation and Incentives: Preparation is key to mitigate the damage of everything from natural disasters to the effects of political conflict. However, many simply don’t understand the risks at play or don’t want to take on the burden of steeling against potential disasters. For this reason, incentives to encourage preparation are crucial. They can take many forms, from financial to social.
Panel discussion at the CGI Winter Meeting, moderated by former president Bill Clinton

Panel discussion at the CGI Winter Meeting, moderated by former president Bill Clinton

Conversations at the CGI Winter Meeting, including those during the panel moderated by former president Bill Clinton at the end of the day, demonstrated just how important the topics of risk and resiliency are to the world at large.

RMS’ work with the CGI will continue to take shape as we work toward the goal of creating a safer and more resilient society.