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Insurance industry adopts Earth observation for assessing floods

(3 October 2012) The use of data from Earth-observing satellites in the insurance business is still in the early stages, but pressure to be ready for more frequent extreme-weather events is increasing.

Flooding is expensive for the insurance and reinsurance market. Last year’s flood in Thailand cost the insurance industry $15–20 billion – the most expensive flood ever in terms of insured losses.

Accurate and timely information about a flood’s extent can help insurers to assess the impact and prepare to meet the claims.

In an innovative business approach, a consortium of insurers and reinsurers, including Swiss Re, Munich Re, Allianz, Willis and Guy Carpenter, has teamed up with Zurich-based PERILS to assess the use of receiving realtime flood extent information based on data from a constellation of six European and Canadian remote sensing satellites.

During the next 12 months, the inundation area of significant floods will be delivered to a web-based platform hosted by PERILS for the business partners.

This trial is part of ESA’s activities to develop the industrial use of Earth observation-based services to stimulate growth within the European service sector.

“This project is going to satisfy a longstanding industry need for detailed flood information during and after large events,” said Eduard Held, Head of Products at PERILS.

“While it has been possible to access satellite images in the past, this is the first time that insurers will be able to access images that have been standardised to better suit their specific requirements.”

Depending on the scale and duration of floods, high-resolution flood boundaries will be made available on a daily basis while the events are unfolding, allowing an immediate assessment of the possible impact.

After the flood, a map showing the maximum extent of the flooding will be produced.

PERILS is an independent, Zurich-based company that provides industry-wide catastrophe data for the insurance industry.

Source ESA