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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Pitney Bowes Software Risk Data Suite Wildfire Bundle launched for insurance sector

April 6th, 2012 by Susan Smith

Already this spring there have been wildfires reported in the western states. According to the National Interagency Fire Center<>, more than 82,000 wildfires occurred across 10 million acres in the U.S. last year.

Lamont Norman, product manager for Global Risk Data at Pitney Bowes Software, spoke recently about the launch of the first national wildfire risk software solution for the Insurance sector.  The Pitney Bowes Risk Data Suite Wildfire Bundle for property and casualty insurers is available for commercial and private markets. This software will enable insurers to attribute accurate wildfire risk ratings during the underwriting process. This product combines geospatial pinpointing with the latest fire science to establish wildfire risk rating for residential and commercial properties.  It is the first product to provide this type of data for the entire United States.
Underwriting calculations can now integrate wildfire risk in much the same way they account for flood risk to establish correct policy pricing.

The data suite supports cat modeling with fire behavior science provided by Anchor Point Group Fire Management Consultants.  Vegetation types across the U.S., weather history and key geological attributes are calculated by location to help predict how wildfires are fueled and how they might spread.

“FireRisk Pro is a national fire risk product that covers all the 48 states and addresses the national problem of wildfires,” said Norman. “Even as early as March or April, wildfires have started in the southwest and were predicted in Arkansas and the Midwest this year. These fires are becoming an increasing concern for insurance providers.”

Included in the data set is previous burn history. The Anchor Point Group provides a map, with a heat map where the red depicts the most wildfires. California, spots throughout the west, right down in the middle west of Miami, even into the Everglades.

A previous wildfire bundle from PBBI was the California model that was based off resource planning for California only without the sophistication or breadth of the FireRisk Pro product. “FireRisk Pro not only accounts for the vegetation that is likely to burn in the areas that are likely to burn and the elevation and whether it’s facing the sun or it’s on a slope, but it also looks at fire behavior modeling,” Norman pointed out.  “Wildfire behavior changes from out in the middle of the forest to when it nears an urban edge.”

Norman added that embering, where the embers float out from the fire and get sucked into the inside of the house and the roof vents and the house burns from inside out, is not well understood. How far do embers go as the fire approaches an urban edge? That kind of modeling is included in FireRisk Pro.

Another example is what are called fuel islands. A number of places, especially in California and up in the North Midwest of just a few acres that are undeveloped that catch fire. Their behavior directly impacts surrounding property.

“We’ve taken a look at true historical moisture, say Telluride, Colorado that’s a fairly high elevation area,” said Norman.  “Even though a high value house there is surrounded by trees, due to elevation the actual period during the year when a fire might actually ignite is shortened. The wildfire risk is actually different at higher elevation. The wildfire bundle model might represent that wildfire risk in higher elevation areas is not as prevalent as we had thought before. The insurers can underwrite wildfire risk at a better rate.”

Similarly homes that are near the wildland urban interface, at the edge of town, where there’s a likelihood of wildfire existing, are actually based on the prior science modeling and risk is actually dramatically different than what is seen in the current wildfire bundle and other models in the market today. “So again insurers can look at those higher value property homes, and they’re at the edge of the community and better understand our wildfire risk for these homes, based on wildfire behavior,” said Norman.

The Anchor Point Group has a concept of Fire Shed that is like Watershed. Many insurers are taking existing models and finding the nearest high risk vegetation and trying to find out what the risk is.

El Nino and other climate change are changing the landscape for catastrophe insurance. FireRisk Pro is complementary to PBBI’s geocoding capabilities so they can locate a property using zip codes, addresses plus point level data, for more granularity relating to location.

Wildfire Risk Data can process hundreds of millions of policies in an hour.  It is available as software-as-a-service or as an on premise solution.  Insurers can use spatial data to assess wildfire risk at a particular location without the need to visualize the data with each location on a map.

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Categories: climate change, insurance, Pitney Bowes Business Insight

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