Mexico and MultiCat: In October 2009 the Mexican government became the first to use the World Bank’s MultiCat bond program, when it sold $290 million in catastrophe bonds to cover potential damage from earthquakes and Pacific and Atlantic hurricanes. MultiCat provides a common documentation, legal and operational framework for issuing catastrophe bonds, the World Bank says, offering developing countries a cost-effective way to transfer disaster risk to the private sector and lessen the financial and economic impact of natural disasters. A growing number of entities in the public sector have purchased catastrophe bonds recently.
Parametric Claim Paying Systems: Because the CCRIF uses what has become known as parametric insurance to calculate claim payments, claims are paid quickly. Under a parametric system, claim payments are triggered by the occurrence of a specific event that can be objectively verified, such as a hurricane reaching a certain wind speed or an earthquake reaching a certain ground shaking threshold, rather than by actual losses measured by an adjuster, a process that can take months to complete. Payout amounts are derived from models that estimate the financial impact of the disaster. As a form of deductible that encourages risk mitigation, participating governments are only allowed to purchase coverage for up to 20 percent of their estimated losses, an amount believed to be sufficient to cover initial needs. In the United States, the first parametric model was sold to the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association, the state’s wind pool, in 2010.
This type of catastrophe bond is known as a disaster recovery bond, see . Disaster recovery bonds are a new type of risk financing tool for the public sector, similar to business income insurance for businesses. They provide short-term liquidity after a catastrophic event, allowing government entities to function and begin recovery efforts at a time when the disaster has shut down much of the economy and its main source of revenue. The bonds are purchased by investors, who receive a good return except when payments to the issuer of the bond are triggered by the occurrence of the event insured against.
The Caribbean: Established in 2007, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF is an insurance pool that covers hurricanes and earthquakes for its 16 Caribbean member nations and their territories. In 2009 the European Union made a donation to the CCRIF joining the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and a number of developed nations in contributing to the facility’s reserve pool. The reserves paid for start-up costs. Japan funded the initial feasibility study.
Pricing: The price of an insurance policy reflects the costs of paying claims covered by that policy, as well as an insurance company's costs for such items as reinsurance. Not surprisingly, reinsurance costs as well as direct claims costs are lower where the risk is low. For example, if a community has a good fire department and ready access to water to extinguish fires, serious fires in that community will likely be fewer than in similar communities that lack a good fire department. The same principle applies to windstorms: premiums will reflect the normal level of windstorm claims in a given community.
Before September 11, terrorist coverage was provided to commercial policyholders essentially without charge because the risk of an attack was considered remote. Immediately following the disaster, reinsurers said they would no longer offer terrorist coverage to the insurance companies they reinsure because they could not price this unprecedented risk. Legislation that made the federal government the reinsurer of last resort for major terrorist attacks was passed by Congress in November 2002 and extended in 2005 for two more years, making it easier for insurers to calculate maximum losses and therefore to underwrite the coverage (see paper on Terrorism Risk and Insurance). The program was reauthorized by Congress at the end of 2007 for another seven years.
Fire damage is covered under a homeowners insurance policy whatever the cause of the fire, unless the person insured under the policy commits arson by intentionally setting fire to the structure. As a result of the greater potential for fire losses where homes are built on mountainous and forested sites, insurers are increasingly requiring homeowners whose property is at risk to take precautions to slow the spread of fire. Such measures include installing fire-resistant roofs and creating a “defensible zone” around the home by removing debris, overhanging tree branches and other items located close to the building that can become fuel for a fire.
A scientific study published in the September 4, 2007 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the role houses play in the spread of wildfires. It found that making entire neighborhoods of homes fire resistant slows down the spread of fire. The likelihood of fires spreading from one site to another is dictated in large part by the amount and proximity of fuel—flammable materials such as dry undergrowth, trees that burn easily and unprotected wooden structures. When houses are not fire resistant, they add greatly to the fuel load and potential for the fire spreading because they quickly burn down to the ground. When homes are fire resistant, not only are they less likely to burn but they also act as a fire break, reducing the ultimate size of the fire and enabling it to be brought under control more easily. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), () a group supported by the insurance industry, has conducted research into how construction, building components, landscaping practices and homeowner behavior play a role in the spread of wildfires, using data from insurance companies that insured structures in the “burn zone,” regardless of whether or not they sustained damage.
Tornadoes: Each year, about 1,200 tornadoes with gusts of wind as high as 200 mph touch down in the United States. Tornado intensity is measured by the Fujita scale, which runs from 0 through 5, the most damaging, based on the maximum speed of three-second wind gusts and the potential for damage. The scale incorporates 28 different damage indicators based on damage to a wide variety of structures from shopping malls to trees. Though generally not as costly in terms of insured values as hurricanes because they strike a more limited geographic area, tornadoes are more frequent. They can cause severe damage and, particularly before the advent of tornado warnings, many deaths. In the decade 1965-1974 they were responsible for an average of 141 deaths each year, compared with 107 in the 10 years 2002-2011. This average was pushed up by the unusually high number of deaths in 2011 (553).
Earthquake Insurance: Insurers doing business in California must offer earthquake insurance to their homeowners insurance policyholders, either a policy from the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) or, if they do not participate in the pool, a policy that they underwrite. Several dozen companies now write earthquake insurance in California in addition to the CEA. The CEA became operational in December 1996, with a $10.5 billion funding package. The CEA could now pay claims caused by a quake more than twice as destructive as Northridge since with each passing earthquake-free year, its claims paying ability increases. Passage of the CEA legislation opened up the homeowners market (see Earthquake paper). More recently, the CEA created a supplementary policy to broaden coverage. Nevertheless, only a small portion of the state’s property owners buy earthquake insurance and the percentage appears to grow smaller as the time span since the last major quake increases.
For hail damage, in addition to instituting percentage of limits deductibles, some insurers in some states are providing coverage for roofs on a depreciated (actual cash value) basis, rather than replacing a damaged roof with a new one. Some are offering a discount for hail- resistant roofs or imposing a surcharge for roofs that are not hail resistant to encourage people to replace old roofs with new, less damageable ones.