For millions of Americans, this summer has been marked by climate-related risks. USA Today reported in July that 40 million people from Washington to Arizona were facing an excessive heat warning while in the Eastern US, around 32 million people were under a flood watch during the same period. Meanwhile, wildfires in California continue to steal the spotlight, though a fire near Yosemite National Park has now been contained, according to news reports.
“Especially in the Western US, we’re seeing that wildfires are increasing in severity and the wildfire season is getting longer than it has been in past years,” said Martha Bane, managing director of Gallagher‘s property practice, adding that, in the 1970s, the season lasted somewhere between two and a half to three months.
Record-breaking high temperatures felt around the world this summer also have reverberations for the upcoming seasons.
“The warmer temperatures can cause the snow to melt earlier here in California and also, high rainfall during the winter spurred a lot of new vegetation growth so there’s a lot more to burn right now,” explained Bane. “One of the biggest factors to these increasing fires [is] urban sprawl and growth. We’re building in areas where we historically haven’t been, and that’s why we’re seeing a lot more devastation of people’s homes as people expand out into new communities.”
Insurance companies are meanwhile turning their attention more to risk mitigation and reduction rather than just responding to events, Bane told Insurance Business.
“They’re continuing to invest in technology, promoting construction with better building materials, [and] wildfire mitigation efforts, such as brush and vegetation, trimming, creating barriers around your property,” she said. “They’re really offering clients more information on risk mitigation and tools to reduce their losses.”
For Gallagher, those new tools have helped the company respond to perils like tornadoes and hail as well as wildfires, as seen through a recent partnership with EigenRisk.
“We have the ability to offer our clients real-time event feeds of any of these major disasters, so with the recent fires, we’re able to identify our clients’ locations in the path of the fires,” said Bane. “It helps them to respond quicker and mitigate potential losses and it helps them also to mobilize their response team and take action when needed, so I think technology is becoming a huge part of how we respond to climate change.”