Zurich report on Hurricane Harvey highlights lessons learned on risk and resilience
Schaumburg, IL, June 21, 2018
Report finds interrelated natural and man-made factors led to the extensive damage from Hurricane Harvey and provides lessons learned for communities facing flood risks
As Houston approaches the one-year anniversary of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, Zurich Insurance, ISET-International, and the American Red Cross Global Disaster Preparedness Center released a new report that explores the factors that led to the second-costliest tropical cyclone ever, taking 103 lives and causing estimated damages of $125 billion. In addition, the report identifies important lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey and recommendations on resilience, risk reduction, response, and recovery.
"This report comes at a critical time when Houston and Harris County are shifting their focus to long-term recovery and resilience efforts. Elected officials, businesses, and private citizens must act boldly to prepare for the next severe weather event, which is not a matter of 'if' but 'when,'" said Kathleen Savio, Chief Executive Officer of Zurich North America. "As a leader in managing risk, it is Zurich's practice to examine what went wrong and what went right after a disaster strikes to ensure we can help our customers effectively reduce risk moving forward. This is why we have conducted thirteen post-event reviews of disasters around the world since 2013."
The report, "Houston and Hurricane Harvey: a call to action," culls findings from interviews with impacted households and businesses and with individuals involved in risk reduction, response, and recovery at the city, county, and state level. Houston has a history of flooding and has faced three so-called one-in-500-year floods in three years, emphasizing the need to apply these lessons learned now. The report finds Houston's geography, regulatory environment, rapid growth and development, and overlapping jurisdictions of governance have each played a role in the impact of these storms. The report also emphasizes that flood risk is far more widespread in the area than both awareness and flood insurance uptake, which is not unique to Houston. Houston has already begun to take an integrated approach to limiting its flood risk through both large-scale infrastructure and conservation projects and softer solutions, such as fostering a culture of resilience and awareness. However, given the extensive damage of Hurricane Harvey, opportunities remain.
The lessons learned and recommendations from Houston and Harris County can be applied locally and globally. Key findings include:
- Use forward-looking scenarios paired with worst-case historical information to plan for the future
- Foster a culture of awareness around risk through increased transparency and communication
- Build back better or incentivize buyouts
- Address household preparedness as part of business preparedness
- Make flood insurance more universally appealing to homeowners and businesses through multi-hazard approaches
"During the interviews for this report, the Texas Medical Center emerged as a success story of Harvey and as an exemplary model of resilience for the area and the rest of the world," said Dr. Karen MacClune, Chief Operations Officer and Senior Scientist at ISET-International and a lead researcher on the report. "In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison caused significant damage to the Texas Medical Center, endangering lives and comprising more than 30 percent of total damages from the storm. The Texas Medical Center subsequently saw this event as a wake-up call and implemented comprehensive risk mitigation measures. Taking an all-hazards approach in risk reduction, rather than solely responding to the last storm, effectively prepared the Texas Medical Center for Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Medical Center remained fully operational throughout the storm. This demonstrates the power of investing in building back better."
"Houston teaches us that we must not only increase risk perception and awareness, but we must also turn that knowledge into action," Savio added.
To read the report, "Houston and Hurricane Harvey: a call to action," go to https://www.zurichna.com/en/knowledge/articles/2018/06/houston-and-hurricane-harvey-a-call-to-action
Since 2013, Zurich has conducted thirteen Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) reports on responses to natural catastrophes across the globe, including in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Serbia, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. These reports evaluate risk management and mitigation strategies, assess post-disaster responses, and identify how to best leverage the recovery phase to build resilience.
Zurich’s PERC methodology is an approach for understanding why a hazard becomes a disaster, and then from that, identifying entry points for building resilience. The PERC methodology is open-source and available to anyone who wants to conduct a post-event review. PERC studies and a manual that serves as a guide for conducting PERCs are available at https://www.zurich.com/en/sustainability/flood-resilience/learning-from-post-flood-events
Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) is a leading multi-line insurer that serves its customers in global and local markets. With about 53,000 employees, it provides a wide range of property and casualty, and life insurance products and services in more than 210 countries and territories. Zurich’s customers include individuals, small businesses, and mid-sized and large companies, as well as multinational corporations. The Group is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, where it was founded in 1872. The holding company, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd (ZURN), is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and has a level I American Depositary Receipt (ZURVY) program, which is traded over-the-counter on OTCQX. Further information about Zurich is available at www.zurich.com.
In North America, Zurich is a leading provider of insurance products and services, including workers’ compensation, liability, property, specialty and F&I (finance and insurance) for a number of major industries, such as Construction, Auto Dealers, and Technology. It offers life insurance and disability coverage in the United States. Zurich employs approximately 9,000 people in North America. It’s a top-four commercial insurer in the U.S. and has been insuring U.S. businesses for more than 100 years. Further information is available at www.zurichna.com.