One year after torrential rains caused massive flooding and led to over 270 deaths in Western Japan, local governments, academics, and private firms are working together to assist residents’ evacuation efforts.
Katsue Edo, a professor at the Prefectural University of Hiroshima, thought of what he termed as ‘evacuation insurance,’ which is primarily targeted at elderly people living alone. In the event of an evacuation order, the product ‘pays out’ by dispatching a taxi to pick up the beneficiary and drive them to safety, NHK World reported.
Several private insurance companies have picked up on Edo’s idea, and are developing a commercial version of his idea. According to Edo, this is an important step to improve disaster preparedness, where private firms and local governments cooperate in life-saving efforts.
Whenever a municipality comes out with an evacuation order, the local government is legally obligated to provide shelter and food for evacuees. However, these preparations sometimes end up being unnecessary because the disaster doesn't occur or turns out to be smaller than expected, and the government still has to shoulder the costs. For large municipalities, this means between up to ¥50 million (US$460,000) could be spent for each evacuation order.
Several insurance companies, including Sompo Japan Nipponkoa, launched what it calls ‘strike out insurance’ in 2017. So far, 351 municipalities, or 20% of Japan’s total, are participating in the programme.
The product releases funds whenever an evacuation order is issued, and according to a local disaster management official, the insurance allows them to issue evacuation orders and advisories without worrying about expenses.
Insurers are also lending their data and disaster expertise with local governments, as shown by collaboration between Aioi Nissei Dowa Insurance Company and Yokohama National University.
The partnership developed a website that uses weather data, such as expected rainfall and wind speed, to broadcast real-time projections of the number of buildings at risk during a natural disaster. Launched in June, the platform also uses data on the amount of insurance payouts incurred by past disasters.