Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Foreseeability of Disaster and Disaster Preparedness

Often, our response to a disaster is "how could this happen?"  and yet many of our disasters are predictable.  We may not know when and where the disasters will occur, but we do know they will occur, because the conditions precedent are obviously in existence.  Consider two new books addressing the impact of killing drought in the west, reviewed in the New York Times today. “A Great Aridness,” by William deBuys, a conservationist based in New Mexico, and “Bird on Fire,” by Andrew Ross, a social scientist at New York University,  discuss the impact of weather changes on the "New West."  The development and population here in the New West took off during a period in the 20th century when the region enjoyed perhaps its wettest weather in hundreds of years. The killing droughts that have lately gripped the region are, in fact, the result of more typical weather patterns.  This will mean the occurence of more events that we classify as typical disasters like forest fires and flash floods, and also more slow motion disasters:  pestilence, die-offs of native grasses, depletion of watersheds and increasing competition for scarce water. The American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Disaster Initiative will present programs on  May 17, 2012 at the TIPS Spring Meeting in Charlotte, NC focusing on disasters caused by acts of nature, and a full CLE track on disaster preparedness).  For more information about TIPS' Disaster Initative click here

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cyber Attacks Expected to Boom

This New York Times article discusses how industry observers expect cyber attacks to boom in the upcoming year.  The article is interesting because it discusses the many lawsuits that get brought when a company is attacked and personal information is lost or stolen.  It points out the need for cyber insurance and the failure of many companies to buy the product.

At the American Bar Association's Tort,Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Fall Meeting in Seattle, this topic was discussed at the CLE presentation as part of the TIPS Disaster Initiative.  Additionally, TIPS Disaster Initiative podcasts discuss cyber terrorism and the need for cyber insurance.  You can find this information at the TIPS Disaster Initiative website here.  We have a number of great programs coming up in February, May, and August 2012 covering disaster preparedness and response.  Please visit our website to learn more.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lessons of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

This New York Times Editorial (December 19, 2011) discusses a new report from the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council on the Deepwater Horizon disaster finding that there were a series of poor decisions.  The Editoral concludes that if drilling is to continue, the industry and the regulators have to start doing things differently, including for focus on preparedness and oversight.

The American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Disaster Initiative will put on a program on the Deepwater Horizon disaster and other disasters caused by negligence at the ABA's mid-year meeting in New Orleans on February 3, 2012, at 2:00 p.m.  Entitled "BP and Beyond:  Litigation and Claims Following Mass Disaster," the panel includes Allan Kanner, Kanner & Whiteley, L.L.C., New Orleans, LA, as moderator and features Professor Francis McGovern, Duke University, Honorable Lee Rosenthal, United States District Court, Houston, TX, and Theodore R. Henke, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, The OIL Group of Companies, Hamilton, Bermuda.  This program will discuss litigation and claims arising out of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil spill resulted from an explosion that killed eleven men and injured several more. The after-effects of the spill were extensive and resulted in significant litigation as well as the creation of a compensation fund, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, that is funded by BP and administered by Kenneth Feinberg. This panel will address the claims administration process and litigation arising from the spill, including a look at insurance coverage issues.  For more information on this program, and on all the TIPS Disaster Initiative programs, click here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Worldwide Disaster Claims to Exceed $350 Billion in 2011

Swiss Re, one of the world's largest reinsurers, has issued a preliminary Sigma analysis of disasters in 2011 and has projected 2011 to be a record-breaking year for disasters.  The comprehensive sigma study “Natural and man-made catastrophes in 2011” will be published in Spring 2012.  The prelminary analysis shows that total insured losses for the global insurance industry from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters reached $108 billion in 2011. This is more than double the figure of $48 billion in 2010. Claims from natural catastrophes alone reached $103 billion in 2011, compared to only $43 billion last year.

The American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Disaster Initiative has a series of webcasts, podcasts, and programs that address natural and man-made disasters, as well as disasters caused by terrorism.  Many of the issues outlined in the Sigma study by Swiss Re have been and will be discussed at upcoming Disaster Initiative programs and podcasts, including those on February 3, 2012 in New Orleans at the ABA's Mid-Year meeting (focusing on disasters caused by man-made acts, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which is going to trial in 2012, and the unique challenges faced by courts and local governments when disasters happen like when the levees broke); May 17, 2012 at the TIPS Spring Meeting in Charlotte, NC (focusing on disasters caused by acts of nature, and a full CLE track on disaster preparedness); and August 3, 2012 at the ABA's Annual Meeting in Chicago (with the focus on disasters caused by terrorism - including a blockbuster panel with important government officials and an insurance industry panel including Bob Hartwig).

To access the podcasts and videocasts that have already taken place and for more information about the TIPS Disaster Initiative and upcoming programs, including how to register, please click here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Study on Catastrophic Losses in Alabama

The linked presentation by Robert Hartwig, President of the Insurance Information Institute, focuses on the effects of catastrophic losses on homeowners' insurance in the State of Alabama.  This study, of course, has parallels with other similarly situated States.  According to the study, between 1998 and 2011, insured catastrophe losses across the state totaled $8.4 billion, with homeowners and renters insurance accounting for about 67 percent of the losses. 2011 was the worst year in Alabama history for catastrophe losses, with homeowners losses representing 66 percent of the $3.2 billion in cat losses. This record of catastrophes has taken a toll on the state’s insurers. The return on net worth (RNW) for the Alabama homeowners insurance market from 2000-2009 averaged negative 7.9 percent, ranking the state 43rd out the 50 states. Inclusion of the 2011 storms could make Alabama close to the least profitable state.

The study offers some interesting information that makes for a good segue with the American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Disaster Initiative program for the TIPS Spring Meeting in Charleston, SC on May 17, 2012.  The Charleston Disaster Initiative program includes Mayor Joseph Riley of Charleston, who masterminded the response to Category 4 Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and won international accolades for his vision will host the panel.  Other panelists include Governor Bev Perdue (invited), who received tremendous media attention for her thorough and thoughtful preparation in the path of Hurricane Irene.  The Mayor of Birmingham William Bell, who weathered and learned from the tornados that sliced across Alabama this year, has also been invited and should be familiar with the effects of the III study.  Their experiences and what they learned will be front and center.  A second panel, including Judge Bernice Donald of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Ed Collins, from Protecting America, and Dr. Robert Bailey from Exponent, will assess national preparedness, the likely hot spots geographically and what can and must be done now to avert even worsened consequences.
 
The Charleston meeting will also feature a second CLE grouping of four panels on:  1)  “Advising Businesses on Natural Disaster Preparedness and Business Interruption Insurance”;  2)  “ Second Responders:  Experts Responding to a Natural Disaster Loss from Start (investigation) to Finish (Daubert Challenges)”; 3) “Handling a Catastrophic Claim from Beginning to End, including Pre-Storm Preparedness and Post-Storm Evaluation”; and 4) “5-Minute Drills-Foreseeable Ethical Problems and Solutions After a Natural Disaster.”  For more information about TIPS Disaster Initiative and the Charleston program click here.  Coincidentally, Bob Hartwig will be speaking at the TIPS Disaster Initiative program in Chicago on August 3, 2012 on Disasters Caused by Acts of Terrorism.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Give the Gift of Disaster Preparedness

I found this interesting article searching around for disaster preparedness information.  FEMA, who we have linked below, is suggesting adding disaster preparedness items to holiday gift giving.  The article provides some suggestions for disaster preparedness holiday gifts such as disaster kits for homes, offices and cars (first aid kits; food, water and prescription medications for 72 hours, extra clothing, blankets, and flashlights), NOAA weather radios with extra batteries, enrollment in a CPR or first-aid class, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers (for the kitchen, garage, car, etc.), foldable ladders for second-story escape in a fire, winter car kits (emergency flares, shovels, ice scrapers, flashlights and fluorescent distress flags, jumper cables), pet disaster kits (food, water, leashes, dishes, toys, and carrying case or crate), and battery powered lamps.  What cool ideas.  Let's have our readers' comments on other disaster preparedness holiday gifts!

The American Bar Association's Tort, Trial & Insurance Practice Section's Disaster Initiative has some suggested gifts in its podcasts, recorded audio and video webinars, and its upcoming Disaster Initiative programming at its mid-year, Spring, and annual meetings.  TIPS will be visiting local venues and will be supplying disaster preparedness information to the local population in New Orleans, Charleston, and Chicago.   Visit our Disaster Initiative page for more information and to register or access these great disaster preparedness and response programs and materials.