RMS Assesses UK Flood Review

April 3, 2008

In its response to Sir Michael Pitt’s review of flood risk in the UK, Risk Management Solutions stressed the “urgent need for an accurate database of information on flood defenses.” The catastrophe risk management specialist said the “Environment Agency currently has information about defenses for less than half the 21,000 kilometers of major river networks in the UK, seriously hampering attempts to quantify flood risk.”

Pitt was asked by the Government to conduct an independent review of the flooding emergency that took place in June and July 2007. After seeking feedback from organizations and the public, he is to recommend measures to minimize future risk.

“Last summer’s floods painfully demonstrated how destructive and costly extreme flooding can be,” stated Bob Ward, director at RMS. “There is a pressing need to manage flood risk more effectively, but a lack of basic information on whether defenses even exist along certain parts of major rivers creates significant obstacles. The Government has a social and financial responsibility to invest more resources in compiling a comprehensive database of information.”

As well as data on flood defenses, RMS emphasized “the need to examine all sources of flood risk. The Environment Agency’s maps only include flood risk from coasts and major water courses, and do not take account of ordinary water courses and flash flooding. For example, the Agency’s map for Kingston-upon-Hull, which experienced extensive flash flooding last June, categorizes many of the areas as just being at risk of coastal flooding.

Ward added: “The Environment Agency has only been given a mandate to assess the risk of river and coastal flooding, so other major sources of risk are not included in its maps. The UK is unusual in that the private insurance market offers flood coverage as standard in its policies for property damage. The Government benefits from the existence of this market and would otherwise have to cover the costs if a major flood occurred. Therefore, if insurers are to continue offering coverage for homeowners, the Government needs to understand the true picture of flood risk and implement appropriate protection measures.”

Additionally, RMS explained that the “Environment Agency’s maps are based on risk estimates for each location, and do not provide information on the risk of simultaneous flooding across an area or several areas from the same event. More comprehensive risk models used by the insurance industry are able to assess the probability of correlated risks and could also help with emergency planning.”

“There is a clear opportunity for the Government and its agencies to work with the insurance industry to devise mutually beneficial strategies for dealing with flood risk,” Ward concluded

Copies of RMS’ submission to the Pitt Review are available on request through the Company’s web site at: www.rms.com.

Source: Risk management Solutions

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