Too Much Information: California Residents Complain About Wildfire Maps

After writing recently about the predictive modeling now being done by Pitney Bowes Software and Anchor Point Group for the emerging risk of wildfires in this country (and an informative Webinar on the subject), I was amused to see the following headline in the Orange County Register: “Residents worry new fire maps mean higher insurance rates.”

It’s not exactly Jay Leno material, but I’m sure it brought a few smiles to the faces of some insurance underwriters whose job it is to accurately rate risks such as wildfires.

No one wants to see an increase in their homeowners’ rates and insurersdon’t enjoy having to pay for off a claim when a home burns to the ground, but that’s what the world of insurance is all about.

The good news for insurers is wildfire maps and predictive modeling are making it easier to underwrite this risk accurately using a number of data points that go beyond the older method of judging the vegetation—fuel for the wildfire—in a particular area.

Californialaw requires fire officials to periodically update fire hazard maps, according to the Register, using the latest data, science and technology. What worries residents are the impact maps have on their homeowners’ policies and whether insurers will continue to offer coverage in fire-prone areas.

"It's definitely going to limit the competition because right now, where my home is situated, it's on the sort of top side of the toll road," one resident tells the Register. "We have vegetation at the back slope area. There are a lot of homeowners’ policy writers that will not write because we are on the slope. My question is how many additional homeowners’ insurers will not write because we are going to be in a very high fire hazard (zone)."

Californiaresidents know more about wildfires than some blogger in the Midwest, but it doesn’t take a genius to compare what is going on inCaliforniaand other wildfire areas today to whatFloridaresidents first went through when wind models were first introduced.

No one likes insurance until they need it. The day models can be run to predict tornado models in theOhioValley, I’ll be as interested as anyone to see if my home on top of a big hill is more at risk than my neighbors halfway up the hill.

But I learned one important fact about having homeowners insurance 22 years ago when a tornado struck my home: I can never replace what my insurance carrier did for me when my house was destroyed. Trust me, my homeowner premiums have been a bargain, even 22 years later.

About the Author
Robert Regis Hyle, PropertyCasualty360.com

Robert Regis Hyle, PropertyCasualty360.com

Robert Regis Hyle is editor-in-chief of Tech Decisions magazine and technology channel editor for PropertyCasualty360.com. He has spent over three decades as a journalist for a variety of business and regional news publications including a stint with a weekly newspaper that he owned and operated. He has been with Tech Decisions since the magazine’s inception in 1999 and has written articles on virtually every issue and trend facing insurance IT professionals. Prior to joining Tech Decisions, he spent two years as editor of a sister publication, The Ohio Underwriter, where he covered insurance topics for the agency and carrier markets. He has spoken on insurance technology issues at various industry conferences such as IASA and ACORD LOMA and on a number of web seminars. He is a graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati with a degree in Communication Arts. Hyle may be reached at rhyle@sbmedia.com

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