From the March 12, 2012 issue of National Underwriter Property & Casualty • Subscribe!

California Residents Ignited Over 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, I was amused to see the following headline in the Orange County Register: “Residents worry new fire maps mean higher insurance rates.”

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.

California law 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 may have on their homeowners’ policies and whether insurers will continue to offer coverage in fire-prone areas.

California residents know more about wildfires than some blogger in the Midwest, but it doesn’t take a genius to compare what is going on in California and other wildfire areas today to what Florida residents 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 the Ohio Valley, 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 homeowners’ premiums have been a bargain, even 22 years later.

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