Memories of last year’s Wine Country fires in Northern California and the Thomas Fire in Southern California are top of mind as we look at the unfolding wildfire events across the state, especially the notable Carr Fire to the northwest of the city of Redding in Shasta County, with a population of around 92,000.
Initial observations show similarities to the Wine Country fires in terms of its speed and ferocity, as the Carr Fire spread rapidly overnight on Saturday, July 28, nearly doubling in size. As of 02:00 UTC on Thursday, August 2, the fire is reported to have burned about 121,000 acres (~49,000 hectares) — see figure one below, destroying 1,546 structures, damaging an additional 255 structures, and forcing the evacuation of 38,000 people, according to CAL FIRE and local officials.
July 2013, and Central Europe was just recovering from severe floods during May and June when a series of severe convective storms surprised the (re)insurance industry. On July 28, hailstorm Andreas hit the Stuttgart region in southern Germany, causing widespread damage to property and automobiles. Andreas is also especially remembered as hailstorm Bernd hit the north of Germany the day before on July 27.
Overall, those two events caused approximately US$4 billion in insured losses to the (re)insurance industry. This was the highest insured loss during 2013, and the largest severe convective storm insured loss ever recorded in Europe; above Munich in 1984 (equivalent to US$5.4 billion overall and US$2.7 billion insured loss in today’s value) and Hilal in 2008 (US$1.5 billion insured).
Challenging conventional thinking pays dividends with regards to assessing hurricane risk. And as the current North Atlantic Hurricane Season marches on, here are five points — some of which are insights from last year’s active season, that can help you to reframe and potentially rethink your view of hurricane risk.
1. Hurricane Threat Is Not Just from Wind or Storm Surge
In many respects, Hurricane Harvey was the standout hurricane from last year’s trio of notable events in Harvey, Irma and Maria. The severe amounts of rainfall from Harvey — more than fifty inches (127 cm) in some areas over southeast Texas in August 2017 — certainly differentiated this event.
In 2014, Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS, wrote a blog posing the question whether water, and not wind is the primary driver of hurricane risk and corresponding losses. With events like Harvey in 2017, Robert’s viewpoint becomes more and more valid. Although Harvey was a category 4 hurricane at landfall, around 90 percent of the estimated losses were from inland flooding. The dominance of flood-driven losses in recent events — whether they be caused by storm surge, precipitation, or both — argues for a full hurricane catastrophe modeling solution. If tropical cyclone-induced rainfall is not included as a modeled peril, there is every chance of missing a large contribution of total loss for events like Harvey.
The first professionals on the stand in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry were the London Fire Brigade, quizzed on their lack of training around managing evacuation from the devastating tower block fire in North Kensington, West London on June 14, 2017. Coming soon, the inquiry’s focus will turn to the architects and fire engineers, the manufacturers of cladding material and the regulatory procedures for determining safety.
Yet, one actor conspicuously missing from this parade of experts is insurance.
You might think that insurance would, by now, be leading the agenda in calculating the fire risk to tower blocks and showing how mitigative action, such as removing or replacing flammable cladding, would directly convert into both lower risk and lower premiums. For this calculation around fire risk has the potential to drive other responses, including which buildings are too dangerous to be habitable.
Yet this calculation cannot come from empirical data on fire losses, as supports most actuarial fire pricing, because this fire is without precedent, at least in the U.K. Instead it will have to be the product of “large building” stochastic fire risk modeling.
On November 13, 2015, the multiple terrorist attacks on Paris began with a suicide bomb blast at the 81,000 capacity Stade de France soccer stadium, where France were playing Germany in an international friendly. Soccer is the world’s most popular game, and terrorism is the language of being noticed. When France hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1998, Algerian terrorists planned to attack the opening match in Marseille between England and Tunisia, and follow-up by attacking the U.S. soccer team in their Paris hotel. Fortunately, a mole inside the Algerian terrorist organization passed on intelligence to the French security service, and the plot was disrupted.
Catastrophe models, conceived in the 1970s and created at the end of the 1980s, have proved to be a “disruptive technology” in reshaping the catastrophe insurance and reinsurance sectors. The first wave of disruption saw the arrival of fresh capital, to found eight new “technical” Bermudan catastrophe reinsurers. The “Class of 1993” included Centre Cat Ltd., Global Capital Re, IPC Re, LaSalle Re, Mid-Ocean Re, Partner Re, Renaissance Re and Tempest Re. Using catastrophe models, these companies were able to set up shop and price hurricane and earthquake contracts without having decades of their own claims history. While only two of these companies survive as independent reinsurers, the legacy of the disruption of 1993 is Bermuda’s sustained dominance in global reinsurance.
A second wave of disruption starting in the mid-1990s saw the introduction of catastrophe bonds: a slow trickle at first but now a steady flow of new structures, as investors who knew nothing about catastrophic loss came to trust modeled risk estimates to establish the bond interest rates and default probabilities. Catastrophe bonds have subsequently undergone their own “Cambrian explosion” into a diverse set of insurance-linked securities (ILS) structures, including those in which the funds go back to supplement reinsurer’s capital. Again, this disruption in accessing novel sources of pension and investment fund capital would have been impossible without catastrophe loss models.
This is a taster of an article published in the latest edition of EXPOSURE magazine. For the full article click here or visit the EXPOSURE website.
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria (HIM) tore through the Caribbean and U.S. in 2017, resulting in insured losses over US$80 billion. Twelve years after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma (KRW), EXPOSURE asks if the (re)insurance industry was better prepared for its next “terrible trio” and what lessons can be learned.
Christine Ziehmann, vice president – Model Product Management, RMS
On June 14, RMS Japan welcomed 119 insurance professionals to its fourth In:Site conference — a record total, high-up on the twenty-sixth floor of the Sanno Park Tower in Tokyo, with the RMS Japan headquarters also based in this building.
Yasunori Araga, managing director of RMS Japan opened the afternoon event, and introduced an agenda that was highly relevant to the core concerns of RMS clients, from domestic issues such as earthquake risk in Japan, to the flooding and related losses following Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The agenda also explored the impact of modeling on one of the oldest lines of business — marine, and right through to one of the newest with cyber. The event attracted insurance professionals from multiple departments of insurance companies, such as reinsurance, risk management, property underwriting, casualty underwriting, marine underwriting, international and more.
Guest Blog: Jane Warring, senior counsel, Clyde & Co. U.S. LLP
A few weeks’ back I attended my first Exceedance. If you go to a new conference, you are never entirely sure what to expect. Suffice it to say though, it was like no industry event I have ever attended — and in a good way.
Above all, though, I was blown away by the sessions. I have spent almost 15 years litigating first-party property/coverage disputes at both the trial and appellate levels. So, I know a thing or two about the interplay between exposure, risk and coverage. But Exceedance was a whole new level of learning: information-rich content, transparent discussions, engaged delegates and high-quality speakers.
Like many attendees, I filed a trip report on my return to the office. I wanted to make sure my colleagues who lead our resilience work benefited from my learnings. This got me thinking. What were some of the top takeaways from #Exceedance18?