With the use of geospatical technology it is possible to track the progress of the bushfires around Australia live. Using Google Earth and the appropriate overlays it is possible to drill down and see exactly where they are. The map here was taken at around 5:30pm AEST today.
In the past 45 years, there have been 27 bushfire events that have given rise to significant insured losses. Historically bush fires have accounted for 13% of total Catastrophe events in Australia and 10% of insured costs. Weather perils are of course the major cause of such losses.
Of these 27 events, a quarter have been in New South Wales and a quarter in Victoria, with Victoria accounting for half the costs (think of the Black Saturday and Ash Wednesday fires) with New South Wales only 12% [source: Bank of America Merrill LynchGlobal Research].
As BoA Merrill Lynch indicated in a recent release, this is more a function of “luck” than any structural consideration.
The cost of bushfires is significant having cost insurers $5.7 billion (with a b) in current dollar terms since 1967 [source: Insurance Council of Australia].
The NSW Premier has suggested that these current bushfires could be the worst on record for the State. The largest prior bushfire event in NSW was in 1994 costing insurers $215 mllion in today’s dollars. These fires were known as the “1994 Eastern Seaboard Fires”. The bushfires raged between 27 December 1993 and 16 January 1994. They covered a wide area along the New South Wales coast from Bega to the Queensland border and inland as far as Bathurst.
Over 80 separate fires encouraged by extreme hot dry and windy conditions threatened many areas including the major cities of Newcastle and Sydney. The fires killed four people and burnt out over 800,000 hectares (2,000,000 acres).
The fires across the state destroyed 225 homes in total – 101 of which were in the southern Sydney suburbs of Jannali and Como West where Como West Public School was also destroyed. 13 houses were destroyed in suburbs around Lane Cove National Park and 42 were destroyed around Kuringai National Park, Garigal National Park and the Royal National Park, 9 houses including a Youth hostel were destroyed in Hawkesbury Heights in the Blue Mountains. [Source: Wikipedia]
These fires generated a large amount of media coverage internationally. Unlike earlier fires — several of which caused much more damage — the 1994 bushfires entered a major city, as the later “Black Christmas” and 2003 “Canberra” bushfires would, and the 2009 Victorian “Black Saturday” bushfires nearly did.
Such events remind us of the importance of full insurance on reinstatement and replacement values for both the building and the contents. I would refer you to my recent article (6th October 2013) on a “rule of thumb” for contents sums insured. http://www.allanmanning.com/my-rule-of-thumb-for-the-contents-sum-insured/ . Use the LMI iPhone and smart phone LMI Mobile app for a building cost indicator.
Waiting to the last day or so before taking out insurance may find you not having insurance. Insurers post an embargo period when a known peril such as a bushfire or cyclone is eminent.
I and the LMI team are working on the geospatial technology that brought the live map of the bushfires as we see this being of great benefit to consumers, insurance advisers and underwriters. Look for a note in this with a link to a podcast where I interview Adam Matteson of Arch on the benefits of this technology.
What is also exciting is just how many useful maps such as flood mapping from the Queensland government that we are able to obtain and share with our subscribers using this technology.