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March 13th, 2012
International Flood Expert to Advise Local Insurers

Simon Thompson, a senior executive with world-leading Geographic Information System (GIS) specialist Esri, has answered requests to meet the nation’s top insurers as the industry faces widespread reform following two years of severe flooding that has inundated large parts of the country and exposed extensive underinsurance and poor risk assessment processes.
The flooding, which has impacted much of the eastern seaboard, significant parts of the south-east and even the nation’s Red Centre, triggered the Federal Natural Disaster Insurance Review (NDIR), whose recommendations were handed down in November and included compulsory flood cover in policies for homes in medium and high-risk areas.
A separate Queensland inquiry, due to report on March 16, is also expected to have significant ramifications for home and property insurers.
Mr Thompson said his advice to local insurers facing the next few years of change was to follow their overseas counterparts, who were increasingly recognising geography’s role in assessing risk.
“Insurers cannot write a policy without accurately understanding and pricing risk and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology is the most effective method for insurers to gain a holistic view of the exact exposure and risks they are underwriting,” Mr Thompson said.
“Layering detailed flood and engineering models over residential or commercial property data enables insurers to more accurately and efficiently understand their portfolios and deliver better products and services to their customers.
“The improvement in cover benefits both customer and insurer by reducing uncertainty, increasing competition, and ultimately driving transparency in providing householders with the information they need on the risks of living in flood-prone areas.”
Mr Thompson has been a driving force behind an attempt to kick-start a global flood model, an international platform for flood risk assessment and modelling that could encourage governments and citizens to become more engaged in developing measures to adapt and mitigate flood dangers.

“The model will connect best practices to the system at different spatial scales – global, national, state and local – allowing many people to contribute their expertise and everyone can access the results,” Mr Thompson said.

“We feel if we can encourage everyone, from the man on the street to national governments to understand the flood risk in their own area, they will be more inclined to reduce its impacts and long term costs to society.”

Mr Thompson is this week meeting with the country’s top insurers in partnership with Gary Johnson, a Principal Consultant at Esri Australia – the GIS market-leader in Australia’s $2.1 billion spatial industry and the nation’s authority on flood mapping and GIS technology.

During last year’s Queensland flood crisis, Esri Australia developed the award-winning Brisbane City Council Flood Map, which provided a clear view of the scale of the 2011 flood disaster before the event fully unfolded.