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Through our partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative, RMS is tasked with helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. Our recent engagement with the city of Berkeley, California highlighted how modeling can be used to help a city acutely understand its risk and create policy that accurately protects against it, thereby helping to save lives of vulnerable populations.

RMS completed a dual-view seismic analysis for the city of Berkeley. The first was a city-wide analysis showcasing the vulnerability of all neighborhoods across Berkeley under various magnitude scenarios. RMS then completed a building-level study on the city’s critical infrastructure of care and shelter sites. These structures are the city’s emergency shelters and are intended to house all displaced residents after an earthquake. Our analysis concluded that these shelters are located in areas susceptible to higher than average damage, indicating that these facilities would be critical to surrounding neighborhoods following an earthquake. Furthermore, we found that in their current construction state, these buildings performed worse than average in all seismic scenarios modeled and that retrofitting these buildings was an economical way to improve building performance.

This RMS analysis proved to be a key recommendation that Berkeley’s Chief Resiliency Officer took to the city council for a bond measure to fund retrofits for their care and shelter sites. If Berkeley secures the funding for these retrofits, our analysis will have provided leverage for a policy directive that will result in increased protection for particularly vulnerable segments of the population exposed to seismic risk.

RMS was able to showcase the seismic risk of all neighborhoods throughout the city, contextualize the geographic vulnerability of shelter sites, and propose measures for helping to ensure that these critical pieces of infrastructure help to protect the populations that they serve. This project highlights that catastrophe modeling can be a key determinant in helping governments, NGOs, and the private sector understand their risk and increase resilience.

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Being prepared for, and recovering quickly from, any catastrophe is one hallmark of ensuring a more safe and resilient society. But in many catastrophe-prone communities around the globe, insurance penetration rates remain stiflingly low and, as a result, building codes are either non-existent, or inconsistently enforced. In Nepal for example, almost 90 percent of the population is without insurance, and both mitigation and recovery efforts after their devastating earthquake in April 2015 are still scaling slowly. Social enterprises such as Build Change, who work on the ground in countries like Nepal, Columbia, and Haiti, are engaging with various stakeholders across governments, NGOs and even individual homeowners to institute building codes and train local construction sectors in attainable and safe building practices. RMS is proud to partner with Build Change by providing grants to jump start and enhance its country programs and allowing the organization to use our products for free in order to better quantify the risk landscape of the countries in which they operate. It is an exciting time as RMS also partners with Build Change for our annual Impact Trek. This is our fourth annual trek, the first saw our team in Haiti, and for the past two years we have sent teams to Nepal. The video below shows the Impact Trek team in Nepal during 2016. We return to Nepal this year; both RMS employees and our clients representing major insurance and reinsurance firms will be flying out to Kathmandu on March 17 for a 10-day trek in Nepal, working alongside Build Change to bridge the gap in coverage by building resilience in communities that are most vulnerable to catastrophe. A team of eight Impact Trekkers will share their expertise with local stakeholders, working to bring greater efficiency to reconstruction practices, and help to ensure that standards for “building back better” are effective and scalable. One Impact Trekker was so inspired by the work that Build Change was doing in Nepal, that he has now gone on to take a four-month sabbatical in the country. Alastair Norris has blogged about his experiences, working on several projects to help Build Change in their efforts to scale reconstruction, and exploring this dynamic country. The RMS Impact Trek shows what is possible when the private sector and public partners come together to create shared value for vulnerable communities by exploring solutions to bring synergies and resilience capacity-building to the forefront of our market. RMS remains focused on creating tools to help ensure that those who are struck by catastrophe can recover quickly and completely, as we help the market better measure and understand their risk both pre and post event. From previous Impact Treks, we know that the experience will inspire our trekkers to think about new solutions, explore new potential partnerships and spread the word about the on the ground realities of rebuilding after a disaster. …

Rebecca Biestman
Rebecca Biestman
Global Head of Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility

Rebecca Biestman is head of Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at RMS. In her capacity as head of CSR, Rebecca oversees all corporate sustainability measures, employee engagement events, philanthropic partnerships as well as pro bono projects for RMS. Prior to her role at RMS, Rebecca worked in brand marketing and community relations for Earth Essentials, Gap, Inc., and the Gap Foundation. Rebecca received both her BA and her MBA from the University of California, Berkeley.

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