Category Archives: Earthquakes

Triple-I Town Hall Amplified Calls
to Attack Climate Risk

By Jeff Dunsavage, Senior Research Analyst, Triple-I

I’m pleased and proud to have been part of Triple-I’s Town Hall — “Attacking the Risk Crisis” — in Washington, D.C. In an intimate setting at the Mayflower Hotel on November 30, 120-plus attendees got to hear from experts representing insurance, government, academia, nonprofits, and other stakeholder groups on climate risk, what’s being done to address it, and what remains to be done.  

Triple-I’s first-ever Town Hall was designed as a logical step in its multi-disciplinary, action-oriented effort to change behavior to drive resilience. Capping a year in which headlines about “insurance crises” in several states garnered major media attention, Triple-I and its members and partners recognized the need for clarification.

“What we’re seeing is not an ‘insurance crisis’,” Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan told the standing-room-only audience. “We’re in the midst of a risk crisis. Rising insurance premium rates and availability difficulties are not the cause but a symptom of this crisis.”

Whisker Labs CEO Bob Marshall discusses innovation with moderator Jennifer Kyung, Vice President and Chief Underwriter at USAA.

While the insurance industry has a critical role to play and is uniquely well equipped to lead the attack, simply transferring risk is not enough. A recurring theme at the Town Hall was the need to shift from a focus on assessing and repairing damage to one of predicting and preventing losses.

Three moderated discussions – examining the nature of climate risk and its costs; highlighting the need of strategic innovation in mitigating those risks and building resilience; and exploring the role and impact of government policy – gave panelists the opportunity to share their insights with a diverse audience focused on collaborative action.

The agenda was:

Climate Risk Is Spiraling: What Can Be Done?

Moderator: David Wessel, Senior Fellow and Director at the Brookings Institution and former Economics Editor for The Wall Street Journal.

Panelists:

Dr. Philip Klotzbach, Colorado State University, researcher and Triple-I non-resident scholar.

Dan Kaniewski, Managing Director, Public Sector at Marsh McLennan, Former FEMA Deputy Administrator.

Jacqueline Higgins, Head, North America & Senior Vice President, Public Sector Solutions, Swiss Re

Jim Boccher, Chief Development Officer, ServiceMaster.

Jeff Huebner, Chief Risk Officer, CSAA.

Innovation, High- and Low-Tech: How Insurers Are Driving Solutions

Moderator: Jennifer Kyung, VP, Chief Underwriter, USAA.

Panelists:

Partha Srinivasa, EVP, CIO, Erie Insurance.

Sam Krishnamurthy, CTO, Digital Solutions, Crawford.

Bob Marshall, CEO, Whisker Labs.

Stephen DiCenso, Principal,Milliman.

Charlie Sidoti, Executive Director, InnSure.

Outdated Regs to Legal System Abuse: It Will Take Villages to Fix This

Moderator: Zach Warmbrodt, financial services editor, Politico.

Panelists:

Parr Schoolman, SVP and Chief Risk Officer, Allstate.

Tim Judge, SVP, Head Modeler, Chief Climate Officer, Fannie Mae.

Dan Coates, Deputy Director, DRS, Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Fred Karlinsky, Co-Chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Global Insurance Regulatory & Transactions Practice Group.

Panelists and participants alike appreciated the compact, action-focused, conversational nature of the single-afternoon event, as well as the opportunity to discuss areas in which their diverse industry- or sector-specific priorities and efforts overlapped.

If you weren’t able to join us in Washington, don’t worry. In his closing remarks, Kevelighan announced plans to take the program on the road with a local and regional focus, so stay tuned. You can contact us if you’re interested in participating in future Town Halls or other Triple-I events. You also can join the “Attacking the Risk Crisis” LinkedIn Group to be part of the ongoing conversation.

It’s Not an “Insurance Crisis” — It’s a Risk Crisis

Ten states – Louisiana, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia – as well as additional plaintiffs, are suing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over its new methodology for pricing flood insurance, Risk Rating 2.0. On Sept. 14, a federal hearing lasted six hours as the plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to halt the new pricing regime while the lawsuit plays out.

Many residents of these states are understandably upset about seeing their flood insurance premium rates rise under the new approach. There may not be much comfort for them in knowing that the current system is much fairer than the previous one, in which higher-risk homeowners subsidized those with lower risks. Similarly, policyholders who have had their premium rates reduced under Risk Rating 2.0 are unlikely to take to the streets in celebration.

These homeowners aren’t alone in seeing insurance rates rise – or even having to struggle to obtain insurance. And these difficulties aren’t confined to holders of flood insurance policies. Florida and California are two states in which insurers have been forced to rethink their risk appetite – due in part to rising natural catastrophe losses and in part to regulatory and litigation environments that make it increasingly difficult for insurers to profitably write coverage.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and the supply-chain and inflationary pressures they created – the property/casualty insurance market was hardening as insurers adjusted their pricing and their risk appetites to keep pace with conditions that were driving losses up and eroding underwriting profitability – topics Triple-I has written about extensively (see a partial list below).

“Rising insurance rates are not the problem,” says Dale Porfilio, chief insurance officer at Triple-I. “They are a symptom of rising losses related to a range of factors, from climate and population trends to post-pandemic driving behaviors and surging cybercrime to antiquated policies, outdated building codes, fraud, and legal system abuse.”

In short, we are not experiencing an “insurance crisis,” as many media outlets tend to describe the current state of the market; we are experiencing a risk crisis. And even as the states referenced above push back against much-needed flood insurance reform, legislators in several states have been pushing measures that would restrict insurers’ ability to price coverage accurately and fairly – rather than addressing the underlying perils and forces aggravating them.  

Triple-I, its members, and a range of partners are working to educate stakeholders and decisionmakers and promote pre-emptive risk mitigation and investment in resilience. We are using our position as thought leaders and our unique non-lobbying role in the insurance industry to reach across sector boundaries and drive constructive action. You will be hearing more about these efforts over the next few months.

The success of these efforts will require a collective understanding among stakeholders and decisionmakers that for insurance to be available and affordable frequency and severity of risk must be measurably reduced. This will require highly focused, integrated projects and programs – many of them at the community level – in which all stakeholders (co-beneficiaries of these efforts) will share responsibility.

Want to know more about the risk crisis and how insurers are working to address it? Check out Triple-I’s upcoming Town Hall, “Attacking the Risk Crisis,” which will be held Nov. 30 in Washington, D.C.

Learn More:

Shutdown Threat Looms Over U.S. Flood Insurance

FEMA Incentive Program Helps Communities Reduce Flood Insurance Rates for Their Citizens

More Private Insurers Writing Flood Coverage; Consumer Demand Continues to Lag

Shift in Hurricane Season’s Predicted Severity Highlights Need for Prospective Cat Risk Pricing

California Needs to Make Changes to Address Its Climate Risk Crisis

Illinois Bill Highlights Need for Education on Risk-based Pricing of Insurance Coverage

IRC Outlines Florida’s Auto Insurance Affordability Problems

Education Can Overcome Doubts on Credit-Based Insurance Scores, IRC Survey Suggests

Matching Price to Peril Helps Keep Insurance Available & Affordable

Triple-I “State of the Risk” Issues Brief: Flood

Triple-I “State of the Risk” Issues Brief: Hurricanes

Triple-I Issues “Trends and Insights” Brief: Risk-Based Pricing of Insurance

Earthquakes:You Can’t Predict Them, But You Can Prepare

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I

“Neither the United States Geological Survey (USGS) nor any other scientists have accurately predicted a major earthquake,” according to a recent post in the California Residential Mitigation Program (CRMP) blog. “And scientists do not expect to be able to predict earthquakes in the future. However, USGS scientists can calculate the probability  that a significant earthquake will occur in a specific area within a certain number of years.”

CRMP is a joint powers authority formed by its members, the California Earthquake Authority and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Forecasting earthquakes directly before they occur is not possible – and the risk of a large earthquake remains high. With more than 15,000 known faults in California – more than 500 categorized as “active” – and most Californians living within 30 miles of an active fault, no one in the Golden State is immune to earthquake risk. 

With this in mind, the United States government has been working toward greater quake preparedness. The USGS recently released a report, UCERF3: A New Earthquake Forecast for California’s Complex System,projecting a 93 percent probability of one or more magnitude 6.7 quake or greater hitting Southern California over the  30-year period that began  in 2014. Additionally, the USGS predicts that, over the same period, there is more than a 99 percent chance of at least one magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquakes occurring in all of California.

What can you do to prepare?

ShakeAlert is a tool that helps Californians provide an initial alert concerning an imminent tremor. This early warning system delivers information that on earthquakes moments after it is begun, such as the expected intensity of ground shaking, and warning people who may be affected.

Additionally, retrofitting older homes – particularly those built before 1980, which predate modern seismic building codes – can help create more quake-resistant and resilient residences. Indeed, U.S. Census data found that than 53 percent of the housing units in San Diego County fall into that category.

As wildfires and other climate-related events continue to capture headlines, it’s important that homeowners and businesses in quake-prone areas do not neglect earthquake preparation. Most standard homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover most earthquake damage. However, with the right tools and information, people can better prepare for tremors, keeping themselves and their homes safe.

As Nat Cat Losses Mount, A Resilience Mindset Matters More Than Ever

Insurance is essential for individuals, businesses, and communities to recover quickly from natural  catastrophes – but perils have evolved to a point at which risk transfer, though necessary, isn’t enough to ensure resilience.

Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan said during a that better insured communities recover more quickly but “the long-term resilience of both the communities impacted by natural catastrophes and of the industry itself depend on preparedness and improved risk mitigation.”  He was one of three panelists participating in the webinar.

“Something’s Got to Give”

Insured U.S. natural catastrophe losses totaled $67 billion in 2020 after an Atlantic hurricane season which included 30 named storms, record-setting wildfires in California, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, and a severe derecho in Iowa. This year’s hurricane season looks to be more severe; the Bootleg wildfire in Oregon – so large and intense it has begun to create its own weather and is affecting air quality as far east as New York City – isn’t  expected to be fully contained until late November; and these disasters are taking place on the heels of devastating winter storms in the first quarter.

As Kevelighan put it in his panel remarks, pointing to a 700 percent increase in insurer loss costs since the 1980s, “Something’s got to give.”

“As the country’s financial first responders,” he said, “insurers are not just responsible for providing relief to the communities affected by natural disasters, but also planning for potential catastrophes to come.”  

One of the ways insurers do this, he said, is by building the industry’s cumulative policyholders’ surplus—the amount of money remaining after insurers’ collective liabilities are subtracted from their assets. At year-end 2020, the U.S. policyholders’ surplus stood at a record-high $914.3 billion.

Mitigate and educate

The role of the insurance industry has grown beyond merely taking on risks to educating the public, regulators, and corporate decision makers on the changing nature of risk and driving a resilience mindset characterized by a focus on pre-emptive mitigation and rapid recovery. Triple-I and a host of other insurance industry organizations have played a key role in promoting public-private partnerships and using advanced data and analytics to understand and address hazards in advance.

For example, Triple-I’s online Resilience Accelerator provides access to data and risk maps that empowers the public to assess and prepare for risks specific to their own communities.

This webinar, co-presented by The Institutes’ Griffith Foundation and the Insurance Regulator Education Foundation, included panelists Hanna Grant, Head of the Secretariat, Access to Insurance Initiative; and Dr. Abhishek Varma, Associate Professor, Finance, Insurance and Law, Illinois State University. It was moderated by James Jones, Executive Director, Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services, Illinois State University.

Webinar highlights:

Unethical Contractors Emerge After Disasters; Know How to Avoid Them

Natural disasters create opportunities for unethical contractors, and consumers need to be on the alert.

Post-disaster repair scams typically start when a contractor makes an unsolicited visit to a homeowner and pressures the homeowner to pay the contractor their insurance claim money – then disappear without doing the work.

Triple-I is teaming up with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) during the NICB’s Contractor Fraud Awareness Week (July 12-16) to educate the public about such frauds and how to avoid them.

Before hiring any contractor, consumers affected by a natural disaster should call their insurer. There’s no need to rush into an agreement. Homeowners should inspect all work and make sure they are satisfied before paying. Most contractors will require a reasonable down payment, but no payments should be made until a written contract is in place.

The NICB offers these tips to homeowners before hiring a contractor:

  • Be wary of anyone knocking on your door offering unsolicited repairs to your home. 
  • Be suspicious of any contractor who rushes you or says the government endorses them.
  • Shop around for a contractor by getting recommendations from people you trust.
  • Get three written estimates for the work and compare bids.
  • Check a contractor’s credentials with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Always ask for a written contract that clearly states everything the contractor will do.
  • Never sign a contract with blank spaces because it could be altered afterward.
  • Never pay for work up front and avoid paying with cash; use either a check or credit card.

The NICB Post-Disaster Contractor Search Checklist explains the contractor hiring process step by step.  Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422) or submitting a form to the NICB.

“Acting as communities’ financial first responders, insurers rebuild damaged homes, cars, and lives after a natural disaster,” said Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan.  “The Insurance Information Institute is proud to join forces with the NICB to educate consumers and communities about how to best prepare and recover economically.”

“Victims of disasters are under tremendous stress as they are often pulled from their homes, fight heavy traffic attempting to get to safety, all while leaving their home and belongings behind,” said NICB President and CEO David Glawe. “When they go home, they are exhausted and strained, a time when they are most susceptible to these fraudulent schemes.”

RELATED LINKS:

Article: Insurance Fraud

Facts & Statistics: Insurance Fraud

Dear California:As You Prep for Wildfire, Don’t Neglect Quake Risk

It’s important for people living in earthquake-prone areas to remember that standard homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover most earthquake damage.

For this reason, Janet Ruiz, Triple-I’s California-based director of strategic communication, advises people in the state to consider buying a policy that, at a minimum, covers the structure, building code upgrades, and emergency repairs.

“You can also get coverage for additional living expenses and personal property, and some companies even cover damaged swimming pools or masonry veneer,” Ruiz writes in a recent Op-Ed in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

As the South Napa and Ridgecrest earthquakes – in 2014 and 2019, respectively – recede from memory and wildfire readiness and resilience seem the more immediate need, Ruiz reminds Californians that even relatively mild tremors can inflict costly damage. She therefore encourages residents to reduce their risk through education, mitigation, and insurance.

There are a number of earthquake insurance providers in California. Many participate in the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), but some non-CEA insurers also provide options to help protect Californians from financial loss.

“CEA offers premium discounts to policyholders who have retrofitted, or strengthened, their older homes to help them better withstand shaking,” Ruiz writes.

In a separate Op-Ed, CEA CEO Glenn Pomeroy advises on retro-fitting older homes to be more quake resistant and resilient. Older homes – especially those built before 1980 – are more susceptible to earthquake damage because they predate modern seismic building codes. According to U.S. Census data, more than 53 percent of the housing units in San Diego County fall into that category of being built before 1980 and could be in need of retrofitting.

Seismic retrofitting can be straightforward and often not as expensive as homeowners might think. Depending on the type of retrofit needed, the work can usually be done in a couple of days, with costs ranging from $3,000 to $7,000.

“Compared to the potential cost of repairing an earthquake-damaged home,” Pomeroy writes, “spending a smaller amount of money to help prevent damage can help avoid a much bigger repair bill after an earthquake. Whatever the cost, it is a relatively small price to pay to protect the value of your home and, more importantly, make it safer for your family.”

Particularly important as the need for pandemic social distancing continues, Pomeroy points out, “Homeowners can remain inside their dwelling as workers do the job without entering the residence.”

Drop, Cover, and Hold On – Great Shakeout Earthquake Drills Take Place on October 15

About half of all Americans are at risk of ground shaking from earthquakes. That’s why practicing what to do in the event of a quake is so important and why over 11 million people worldwide (and counting) are participating in this year’s Great ShakeOut earthquake safety drill on October 15.

The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills is a worldwide earthquake safety movement. Most participate by registering to practice “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”

ShakeOut organizers recommend people follow the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety, which starts with Step 1: Secure Your Space. Most earthquake injuries are entirely preventable and are caused by furniture and other objects that move or break when shaking occurs, resulting in trips, bruises, cuts, and more. You can secure your space by moving heavy objects down to lower shelves, relocate tall furniture away from entrances and exits, and secure cabinets with latches.

In California, a state where earthquakes are frequent, Earthquake Warning California is coordinating a statewide drill to coincide with ShakeOut. People who have downloaded the MyShake app to their phone will receive a TEST warning at 10:15am with guidance to Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some participants are adapting their ShakeOut activities through video-conferencing, choosing staggered or alternative dates, and following local health and safety guidelines.

To register for ShakeOut click here.

Additional Resources:

The Earthquake Country Alliance’s Safer At Home Webinar Series offer many safety tips and advice on how to minimize financial hardship.

Triple-I’s Facts & Statistics: Earthquake Insurance

Video: What’s covered by earthquake insurance

Earthquake Country Alliance’s Minimize Financial Hardship Webinar

The Earthquake Country Alliance will host a webinar on how to be financially prepared for an earthquake as part of its Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety series.

The webinar will focus on Step 4 – Minimize Financial Hardship. It will include tips on organizing important documents, strengthening your property and insurance. Experts listed below will discuss each of these elements, along with “live” demonstrations.

Date:   Wednesday, September 23, 2020 Time: 11am – 12pm PDT 

Presenters:

  • Janet Ruiz (Director – Strategic Communications, Insurance Information Institute)
  • Dante Randazzo (Federal Preparedness Coordinator, FEMA Region 9)
  • Janiele Maffei (Chief Mitigation Officer, California Earthquake Authority)
  • Glenn Pomeroy (Chief Executive Officer, California Earthquake Authority)
  • Randy Braverman (Project Manager Earthquake Brace + Bolt Program, Safe-T-Proof)
  • Tim Kaucher (Engineering Manager Southwestern U.S., Simpson Strong-Tie)

Register to attend

You can view recordings, presentations, and other resources for previous webinars:

Step 1 – Secure Your Space

Step 2 – Plan to Be Safe

Step 3 – Organize Disaster Supplies

Earthquake Shakes San Diego Day After National Earthquake Conference

Last week (March 4-6) the National Earthquake Conference —  attended by hundreds of  experts, including academics, engineers, government leaders, insurance professionals, and scientists – took place in San Diego.

The day after the conference, as if to make a point, a 5.5. magnitude earthquake that struck Baja California, Mexico, shook San Diego.

While no damage was reported, a study released at the conference by the San Diego chapter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute showed that a magnitude 6.9 earthquake on San Diego’s Rose Canyon Fault could damage 100,000 residences, cause widespread road and bridge failures, and make parts of Mission Bay sink about a foot. Such a quake would inflict an estimated $38 billion in building and infrastructure damage, displacing 36,000 households and wreaking havoc on San Diego’s $245 billion economy.

Don’t be scared, be prepared

Conference goals were to improve life safety when earthquakes occur, to help communities learn how to recover faster, and to help prevent or minimize physical earthquake damage through stronger building practices, including research-informed, model building codes and standards.

Janet Ruiz, Triple-I’s Director of Strategic Communications, who was one of the attendees, said one of the great points of the conference was: “Don’t be scared, be prepared.”

Earthquake risk is insurable

One of the ways to be prepared for any disaster is to make sure you have adequate insurance. But as few as 13 percent of California homeowners have earthquake insurance.

Glenn Pomeroy of the California Earthquake Authority said earthquake risk is insurable. The average annual cost of earthquake insurance for a typical home in San Diego is between $100 and $444. Renters can secure financial protection from CEA for as little as $35 per month.

California Earthquakes: How Modern Building Codes Are Making Safer, More Resilient Communities

By Sean M. Kevelighan, CEO, The Insurance Information Institute

 

 

The earthquakes that hit southern California on July 4 and 5 gave us all reason to reflect on a natural disaster that infrequently makes headlines here in the U.S.  A major seismic event occurring near several population centers is the sort of thing that many fear—but it’s also something insurers study constantly to make sure quake-impacted affected areas can recover and rebuild.

Earthquakes and other natural disasters are facts of life. The International Code Council (ICC) helps to create resilience through modern building codes that enable households and communities to rebound faster and more completely after an earthquake.

The ICC reports:

 “On the morning of July 4, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rattled through Southern California, with another 7.1 magnitude quake striking the region the following evening.

“The damage resulting from these events could have been significant. Thanks to the modern, up-to-date building codes in California – based on the International Codes (I-Codes) – the Searles Valley Earthquake resulted in no loss of life and minimal structural damage. The I-Codes are keeping us safe, and this event reminds us of the importance of adopting and effectively implementing current model building codes as a key defense against natural disasters. Building codes save lives.

“According to structural engineers working with the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the homes and buildings experiencing the most severe damage date back to the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Modern buildings built using model codes experienced damage that was largely limited to nonstructural elements or contents.”

We encourage you to read the entire article to learn more about the essential role of building codes in creating a “resilience culture” to make our communities safer and more productive.