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FM Global releases interactive flood map

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FM Global has released a new global flood map to give risk managers and others a way to assess flood exposures and enhance their loss-prevention decisions. 

The free, interactive map provides a global view of high and moderate-risk flood zones, allowing risk managers and others to determine if their properties are at risk, the Johnston, Rhode Island-based insurer said on Tuesday. 

“Flood losses have been increasing,” said Brion Callori, senior vice president and manager of engineering and research at FM Global. “You have climate change, urbanization, rising sea levels. We’ve seen the events, and probably the thing that really got us focused was (Superstorm) Sandy.”

Flooding was the costliest natural disaster peril in 2016 and for the fourth consecutive year, accounting for $62 billion in global economic losses, according to Aon Benfield.

Users can determine whether their business locations reside in a flood zone by typing in physical addresses. The map identifies both high hazards, highlighted in pink if a location is in a 100-year flood zone, meaning it has a 1% chance per year of experiencing a flood; and moderate hazards, highlighted in yellow, if a location is in a 500-year flood zone, meaning it has a 0.2% chance per year of experiencing flood.

The map is a physically based flood map, rather than the typical statistically based map, that incorporates factors such as the topography of the land, riverbed and rainfall to model where flooding will occur from precipitation events, Mr. Callori said.

The need for an alternative flood map became apparent after Hurricane Matthew, he said, when one of the insurer’s clients in North Carolina experienced a loss even though the federal flood map did not show the property to be in a flood-exposed area, he said. 

“I’m not saying that as a knock on the federal flood map,” Mr. Callori said. “They are the best in the world, but we use different parameters in looking at flood defenses and obstructions. We ran our client book and compared the global flood map and the federal flood map and 85% of time it gives you same answer.” 

Companies can identify the base flood risk for all their facilities at a resolution of just 90 meters by 90 meters, a resolution that will be improved to 30 meters by the end of the year to improve its accuracy, Mr. Callori said.

“The better we and the client understand the exposure and the more willing they are to take steps to mitigate the natural hazard exposures, the better terms and conditions and the better capacity we can provide them at a competitive cost,” he said. 

FM Global started publicly released its engineering standards to the public for free about 15 years ago and the release of the flood map builds on that. 

“We want to make these tools available to support not just our clients, but governments,” Mr. Callori said. “If governments have access to flood information, it’s hopefully going to make it easier for our clients when they globalize because (building) codes are going to follow suit because those local governments are going to understand their flood exposures. We think we’re better off getting everyone to understand what the actual exposures are.”