Benefits of early warning from the viewpoint of the insurance industry

G. Berz, Wolfgang Kron, A. Smolka
Geosciences Research Group, Munich Reinsurance Company, 80791 Munich, Germany. Fax: +49-89-3891 5696,
E-mail: Wkron@munichre.com

The losses from natural disasters have increased dramatically since the sixties. Therefore loss prevention measures play an increasingly important role in reducing the anticipated loss burden from such events, also and particularly in the insurance sector. In this perspective the applicability of event forecasts/predictions and early warning schemes differs according to the type of hazard and the lead time available to take such measures. Successful examples were observed particularly with respect to tropical cyclones (Gilbert/Jamaica 1988, Hugo/South Carolina 1989), storm surges (North Sea 1995) and floods (Oder 1997). The experience with volcanic eruption forecasts is mixed. Successful evacuation actions (Pinatubo 1992, Rabaul 1994, Montserrat 1996) do not necessarily result in a reduction of insured losses. The possibilities of loss reduction (shutting off energy supply and critical facilities) offered by early warning schemes for earthquakes (California, Mexico, Taiwan) are promising, but remain to be tested during severe events.