A storm through the eye

Hiscox’s virtual experience transports partners to the middle of a category five hurricane.

Floodwaters are swirling around your waist, but your clothes are dry. You’re able to stand upright even though you’re being buffeted by screaming winds. Hiscox offered partners a chance to experience what it’s like to be caught in a devastating hurricane, thanks to state-of-the-art Virtual Reality (VR) technology.

Guests at a Hiscox  event held on the 24 September during the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association (WSIA) Annual Marketplace in San Diego, got to share first-hand the experiences of Joe, a New Jersey homeowner, as he hurries to protect his home as the category five Hurricane Simon barrels towards the east coast.

Using a VR headset, they hunker down to ride out the 160 mph winds, witness the damage caused to one home by a catastrophic storm surge and then survey the destruction to a neighbourhood wrought by the storm.

“I had a great time playing the Virtual Reality – I got completely lost in the experience and forgot where I was!” commented Tim Parkman, CEO of Tim Parkman, Inc. “It really brings to life the dangers of hurricanes and flooding, but in a very fun and engaging way. I’ve never seen anything like it for flood insurance!”

It [VR] really brings to life the dangers of hurricanes and flooding, but in a very fun and engaging way. I’ve never seen anything like it for flood insurance.

“We wanted to help show people what goes through the mind of a person whose home is in the path of an oncoming hurricane,” says Daniel Alpay, Hiscox London Market’s Flood Line Underwriter. “As Joe’s racing to secure his property, we join him in asking the vital question ‘Will I be covered if the worst happens?’ A good insurance policy helps people to put their lives back together and provides peace of mind if you’re caught up in something as terrifying as a natural disaster.”

Alpay continues: “Thankfully, most of us won’t be unlucky enough to get caught in a hurricane, but the risk of flooding is much greater than many realise. The VR experience ended with a topographical map based on our own analysis of what could happen to the Jersey City suburb of Greenville if sea levels rise as much as some scientists predict. We calculate that, in the worst case, nearly 9% of properties in Hudson County, in which Jersey City lies, would be under water.”  

Alan Daly, Divisional Director at Bishopsgate Insurance Brokers, was impressed. “The FloodPlus VR experience really brought to life the great points of the product, like the cover for outbuildings and property in the basement, not to mention the challenges and measures insureds have to go through to prepare for catastrophes. The map at the end was a real eye opener, as it used the FloodPlus software to cleverly model how rising sea levels could impact a real town in the US.”

Increasing risk from rising sea level

The VR experience vividly conveys how US homeowners will increasingly be at risk of flooding from rising sea levels caused by climate change. Sea levels could rise by as much as 2.4 metres (nearly 8 feet) by 2100, argue some leading scientists, due to accelerated melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets – more than double the estimate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its latest special report.

In the US, the area at risk of flooding in a one-in-100-year storm is due to increase by 45% by the end of the century, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Already, “nuisance flooding” – defined as being “disruptive and expensive” rather than “destructive or deadly” – is now between 3 and 9 times more frequent than it was 50 years ago along many parts of the US coastline, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In the US, the area at risk of flooding in a one-in-100-year storm is due to increase by 45% by the end of the century.

Although the number of homeowners with flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program has been inching up in recent years, largely as a result of a spate of destructive storms, underinsurance remains a big problem. Around 70% of flood-related property damage in the Houston area from Harvey was not insured according to analytics firm CoreLogic.

Hiscox is seeking to address the issue of chronic underinsurance for flood risk. “We want to help hard-pressed US homeowners and business owners who find their insurance does not offer the protection they need,” says Alpay. “FloodPlus offers comprehensive coverage that is simple to understand, has higher limits and broader protection than the existing NFIP policy.”

All comments