On the heels of tragic wildfires, some California residents and business owners will face another crisis—getting wildfire coverage—and making sure it’s adequate and affordable. As an insurer, agent, or broker, how do you rise to this challenge? The challenge of helping Californians rebuild and safeguard their homes and businesses, while protecting your own interests. There’s no doubt, insurance plays a key role in California's economy and resilience as wildfire risk continues to evolve. In August, California Governor, Jerry Brown, stated about fighting wildfires in California: “We’re in for a really rough ride...and we have to apply all our creativity to make the best of what is going to be an increasingly bad situation.” He knew—we all knew—there would be more fires in 2018. Little did we know that those fires would be “historic” again, or as Governor Brown recently declared, "This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal."
Technology is shaping better data and analytics for improved wildfire response. Instead of guessing about how a fire has grown and which insureds are impacted, insurers can access regular fire boundary updates within SpatialKey. Up-to-date wildfire perimeter data has historically been a challenge, with insurance professionals resorting to hand-drawn boundaries or custom shapefile creation. Now, insurers can gain a much more accurate and comprehensive understanding of exposure by overlaying the latest fire perimeter data, including multiple models such as RedZone, GeoMac, and NASA data (all available during the latest California fires), with their portfolio data to visualize exposure, apply buffers and filters, and understand TIV and/or policy exposed limits.
Recent wildfires in Northern California, specifically in Napa and Sonoma counties, have sparked widespread devastation across the area to lives, homes, and businesses. Despite the fires still being active, and the numbers still being calculated, this event is already “the deadliest and most destructive series of wildfires in California history,” and among the worst in U.S. history. And with damages estimated between $3 billion and $6 billion (which could still rise), insurers may face another massive payout due to natural catastrophes in 2017. These devastating events are proof that data is the only line of defense for insurers. And, it’s more paramount than ever to gain a better understanding of how you can use data to better mitigate and underwrite wildfire risk going forward.
California wildfires burn a Paras Vineyards building burns in the Napa area Oct. 10, 2017 (courtesy of Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
This fall, it seems that we can’t catch a break from natural catastrophes and extreme weather. While many people have been eyeing the record-setting hurricanes we’ve seen over the last few months, wildfires in the West are rapidly competing for our attention. Northern California is the latest area to be hit by wildfires, and as of Thursday, they’ve burned for five days straight, with the worst occurring in Napa and Sonoma counties.