Learning from natural hazards to reduce impact on the customers

Natural hazards will always be here. But with our Natural Hazards Competence Centre, we can better understand risks and help our customers reduce the impact if something happens.

Almost every day there is a flood, a storm or a natural hazard event somewhere around the world. As an international insurer with large customers all over the world, we often have customers that are affected, whether there is a flooding event in Europe or a storm in South America.

– We work very actively with nat-haz, as we have clients on all continents, says Fredrik Holmqvist, using the abbreviation for “natural hazards” commonly used among the risk engineers with expertise in this field. Holmqvist is the Head of Property Risk Management Services in Denmark and International.  

If is now reinforcing our overall approach to the risk assessment of natural hazards. The goal with our Natural Hazards Competence Centre is to increase the expertise level on the natural hazards area within If, and also support our clients and suggest actions that can reduce their nat-haz risk.  

Fredrik Holmqvist photo.
Fredrik Holmqvist, Head of Property Risk Management Services in Denmark and International

Working to reduce impact  

To achieve this, we have organised our people and competencies so that we can easily collect information to facilitate in-depth risk assessment of our clients’ natural hazard exposures. Having an excellent understanding of the risks posed by the forces of nature makes it possible for us to support our clients - not only after a natural event has taken place, but also before.

– If a client builds a new factory, we can map the severity of the risk of natural hazards in that particular location. We can address flood exposure, and we can support business continuity plans for how a company should prepare and act during and after an emergency. Prevention can be built into the structure of a site, explains Holmqvist.

– All over the world, we as societies are expanding our cities and building more and more on perhaps less favourable grounds. People tend to live where the weather is warm, but those areas can also be hurricane and typhoon regions. We like to live close to the water, but that is where there is exposure to flood and wind.

Another megatrend with nat-haz exposure is the greening of the economy. The solar and wind energy parks needed for this transition are often located in natural hazard exposed areas. The energy sector needs to build and secure these assets in a good way, and the insurance industry is part of this equation to support the safe construction and operation of these risks.

Identifying vulnerabilities can reduce environmental impact

Helping customers to prepare for these events also means reducing the potential environmental impact that could be caused by damage to buildings and equipment, not to mention the harm that could be inflicted on people and the local habitat.

– There is not much we can do about catastrophic natural events, but smaller natural hazard events can also cause damage. For example, a transformer that is not properly restrained can topple over as a result of vibrations caused by an earthquake, thereby disrupting production and local energy supply.

But if we can identify these vulnerabilities and help the clients to improve their preparations, they can prevent or minimise damages, explains Philip Preston, who is a risk engineer in the Danish team.

Philip Preston photo.
Philip Preston, Risk Engineer, Denmark.

– Climate change will have a significant impact and will affect our customers, increasing their need for preparedness and planned responses. We can teach our risk engineers what they should be aware of when surveying customer sites. This will be beneficial for the client, and also for the community to which they belong.