Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wildfires no longer seasonal or regional catastrophe

Robert Regis Hyle in Property Casualty 360: Wildfires have grown from being regional or seasonal problems as the wildfire season throughout the United States often runs the entire year and in a variety of locations. “At one time, wildfires were burning continuously in the state of Texas over an 18-month time span,” says Lamont Norman, Global Product Manager, Insurance Risk Data, Pitney Bowes Business Insight (PBBI). “It’s no longer a seasonal issue it’s also not a regional issue.”

PBBI recently announced the launch of the first national wildfire risk software solution for the insurance sector. The Pitney Bowes Risk Data Suite Wildfire Bundle for property & casualty insurers is available for commercial and private markets.

California is the leader in terms of wildfire loss, but in recent years fires have caused extensive damage in Colorado, Austin, Texas, and Oklahoma. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, more than 82,000 wildfires occurred across 10 million acres in the U.S. last year.

Insurers can now attribute accurate wildfire risk ratings during the underwriting process to any commercial or private location in the United States. Underwriting calculations can integrate wildfire risk in much the same way they account for flood risk to establish correct policy pricing.

Norman pins part of the blame for the fires on a global climate change, but he also points to the encroachment on the wild land/urban interface as another factor. “Fires are becoming more threatening and prevalent,” he says.

Norman maintains the science behind fire risk modeling has been inferior. Most models were based on what was fueling the fires, such as the vegetation grown in a particular area. Most models ignored such factors as elevation, slope, and the region in question....

Aftermath of the Bastrop, Texas fire, October 2011, shot by Ed Schipul, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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