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2019 Innovation Awards: Post Event Review Capability

Posted On: Sep. 13, 2019 12:00 AM CST

Business Insurance 2019 Innovation Awards

Zurich North America

Finding positive takeaways from a catastrophe loss can be tough, but analyzing how a natural event became a humanitarian disaster can help communities build resilience against future catastrophes.

That’s the thinking behind Zurich Insurance Group Ltd.’s Post Event Review Capability, which was launched in 2013 to study European flood losses and this year was enhanced and updated to analyze a different peril: wildfire losses.

The methodology, which is one of the 2019 Innovation Award winners, was launched in response to the rise in climate change-related losses, said Michael Szoenyi, the insurer’s flood resilience program lead in Zurich.

PERC is funded through Zurich’s Flood Resilience Program, which works with research partners to encourage communities to improve resilience “with the strong belief that acting early is a lot better than acting late,” he said.

By using a “rearview mirror” to examine disasters, communities are able to use the insights to implement significant changes “so that next time the same event is not as bad or so others can learn from this event,” Mr. Szoenyi said.

Talking with people involved in all sides of a catastrophe event, the methodology involves asking only semistructured questions and asking what went right as well as what went wrong, he said. “Exporting that good knowledge is just as important as highlighting the things that may have failed.”

Key takeaways from the methodologies used in flood disasters — including flooding after recent hurricanes in the United States — include: making sure to have a risk management plan and implement the risk management plan, including risk management of development; and that spending on response is still far greater than investment in risk reduction efforts, Mr. Szoenyi said.

This year, the PERC methodology is being applied to the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire in Canada and the 2018 Camp and Woolsey fires in California.

“Perhaps even more than flooding, wildfires are a very natural thing and are required for the rejuvenation of forests and the health of an ecosystem. But if you build infrastructure and have thousands of people living in that wild land, then the problem starts,” Mr. Szoenyi said.

Not having a plan to respond to a wildfire and not knowing how to evacuate “can probably have even more disastrous consequences than flooding” in the United States and Canada, he said.

By analyzing the causes of wildfires, local communities will be better able to build the case for investment in resilience, Mr. Szoenyi said.


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