For your eyes only: How to write realistic terror scenarios

by Heather Munro on June 28, 2016



No matter where in the world his secret missions take him, the stakes for James Bond are incredibly high. Goldfinger, Dr. No, Jaws—these iconic Bond villains are always trying to start a nuclear war, blow up entire cities, or release deadly toxins into the Earth’s atmosphere.

While Hollywood’s version of extreme bad guys is entertaining, the chances of similar terror attacks happening in real life are undoubtedly low. Like any catastrophe, terrorism happens far less often than a James Bond film leads you to believe.

When writing coverage for commercial properties, underwriters should assess the risk of more conventional attacks, not worst-case scenarios. But just as 007 relies on getting the right information before making critical decisions, underwriters need an accurate view of data before using their intuition to write the best risks.

Here’s how you can analyze your current book of business and apply guidelines to write profitable new business, especially when it comes to terrorism underwriting.

Dive deeper into terror accumulations

The villains favored by Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books, usually hijack government weapons in a high-stakes effort to destroy their enemies. In real life, terrorist plans like these are significantly more difficult to carry out because of the specialized skills required, security procedures in place, and tight regulations on materials.

Bombs—not nuclear and chemical weapons of mass destruction—are the most likely terrorist attack methods because they are made from materials that are easy to find. Conventional bomb attack scenarios illustrating severe damage have a physical footprint radius that is generally less than a quarter mile. Concentrated risks like these are important in the risk selection process, as a terrorist attack could devastate a limited area while leaving surrounding areas with little to no damage.

It’s important to evaluate the peak accumulation if a bomb were to go off near prospective locations, and with SpatialKey, you can. The model simulates damage radiating away from a bomb blast, so you can see complete or partial damage diminishing as the distance between buildings and the original blast site increases.


James Bond has plenty of impressive gadgets—and you have advanced insurance technologies that go beyond the capabilities of traditional map tools. SpatialKey Underwriting enables you to:

  • Apply varying damage levels to insured locations within a configurable distance from a potential terrorist attack centroid
  • Calculate the peak accumulation and loss estimates by “modeling” terrorism using a realistic concentric ring analysis
  • Run your analysis based on specific metrics in your portfolio, on exposed limits, or on a specific area of interest within custom geographic extents

Additionally, with the SpatialKey Accumulations app, you can assess terrorism risks using the Rings and Target features, which allow you to:

  • Identify and evaluate peak accumulations of exposure within your portfolio
  • Analyze your portfolio against activity, high-interest properties, or historical terror claims
  • Look at terror target datasets (locations identified as having terrorism risk such as skyscrapers, churches, train stations, etc.)

Even better, SpatialKey also allows you to proactively access data at the point of sale as prospective risks are added, enabling you to price appropriately or avoid adverse concentrations before a risk(s) ever hits your books. Smart underwriting can help improve your bottom line without disproportionately increasing risk.

Having the ability to derive meaningful insights from accurate data—and being able to do so quickly with self-serve analytics—keeps you at the top of your game. Using your intuition about these insights keeps you ahead of your competition.

While we see some attacks that seem to be something out of a Bond film, it’s important to remember that such large-scale events are rare. Underwriters who focus on writing conventional terror risks will be the ones to reap potentially profitable business opportunities.

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