As the Thomas Fire continues to climb the list of the top twenty largest California wildfires for both acres burned and structures destroyed, many in the insurance industry are asking how this fire, in addition to the other burned areas across Southern California, will impact their portfolio. A critical element in understanding the industry impact, but also the significance for an individual book, is the insured value of the burned structures. The Thomas Fire, which at 60 percent containment at the time of publication is already the second largest fire in California history with a reported burn area of 272,000 acres (110,074 hectares), has affected several different communities with wide ranges of average insured value.
Although my colleague Peter Holland declared the Atlantic hurricane season officially closed, there are reports in the media that environmental conditions in the North Atlantic basin may be favorable enough to sustain tropical cyclones, potentially adding to what has already been a very active year and perhaps foretelling an early start to hurricane activity in 2018.
The official hurricane season for the North Atlantic runs from June 1 to November 30 and encompasses over 97 percent of annual climatological activity. Out-of-season tropical systems — events happening through December to May — are rare, but not unprecedented. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Research Division (HRD) states that since 1851, 88 storms have been observed in the Atlantic during the off-season — that’s about one out-of-season storm every two years. In theory, this could be an underestimate, as the peer-reviewed literature suggests an undercount of Atlantic tropical cyclones prior to the satellite reconnaissance era.
Our sixth Exceedance conference makes a welcome return to Miami, this time at the waterfront InterContinental Hotel on May 14-17, 2018. The views over the Biscayne Bay, inspiring keynotes, over 75 informative sessions, demonstrations, engagement with experts in The Lab, and networking with 700+ industry professionals are all guaranteed. What else can we guarantee at Exceedance 2018? You will leave Miami with a new perspective on risk management, as we invite you to join us for our most transformative and immersive Exceedance yet.
It has been twelve months since I first visited Nepal, spending two weeks with Build Change, an earthquake engineering charity and RMS partner, to experience first-hand the impact that they are having in the country. Back then, Nepal was only just starting to come to terms with the huge amount of reconstruction work that lay ahead after the 2015 earthquake. While there was hope that the country could “build back better” it was going to be a long, hard road ahead, as I observed in my blog in January this year.
After my first visit, I made the decision to return to this remarkable country and volunteer with Build Change for a longer period. My ambition was to become more involved in the rebuilding work, and help Build Change plan for future post-earthquake reconstruction. Since arriving I have been struck by the contradiction that although so much has progressed, a lot of the same issues are still prevalent and are holding back real change.
After Faizal Shahzad was arrested on May 1, 2010, for attempting to detonate a vehicle bomb in Times Square, Mayor Bloomberg commented, “It’s been said that when you find a terrorist, he’ll have a map of New York City in his back pocket.” A few blocks from Times Square is the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where a pipe bomb explosion occurred at 7.20 a.m. local time on Monday, December 11, 2017, in an underground passage, about 200 feet (60 meters) from the bus terminal.
In a year that has so far seen a below-average seven M7+ earthquakes globally, the Mw 7.3 earthquake that struck the mountainous Iran-Iraq border region late evening local time on Sunday November 12, ranks as the most destructive and deadly earthquake of 2017. It was the eighth strongest to hit the region since 1900, and the strongest to hit within 150 miles (250 kilometers) in the last century. The epicenter was located 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the city of Halabja in Iraq. Reports state that over 500 people were killed and over 8,000 injured, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Wildfires are once again raging across California, this time focused in the southern part of the state. Prior to the ignitions, weather forecasts called for a significant Santa Ana wind event from Monday (December 4) through Thursday evening (December 7), driven by a high-pressure system across the western United States. The NOAA Storm Prediction Center noted in their Day 1 Fire Weather Outlook valid for Monday, December 4, that, “A very strong surface pressure gradient… coupled with strong low-level northeasterly flow will easily support sustained offshore winds of 30-40 miles per hour (48-64 kilometers per hour) across parts of Ventura into Los Angeles counties beginning later this evening and continuing through early Tuesday morning. Wind gusts of 60-80 mph (96-128 km/h) will be possible across the mountains/foothills of these counties where channeling and terrain effects can locally enhance the already strong flow, with gusts of 45-60 mph (72-96 km/h) likely at lower elevations.”
Time is tight for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). A three-month extension of the NFIP signed by President Donald Trump to help devise a long-term financial solution for the program, expires on December 8. In the lower chamber of Congress, the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, which would update and reauthorize the NFIP, was passed (237-189) by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 14. The fate of the scheme now rests with the Senate, allowing just over three weeks in total to make a choice; adopt the House bill or a version of it; advance its own bill, or simply do nothing.
Congress has an opportunity to reform the NFIP; to build a public-private partnership and transfer risk to the private insurance sector. This bill both entices private insurance firms into flood underwriting, and provides more power to the consumer to quantify and manage their own flood risk.