IPCC Climate Change Report Highlights Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters

The above video highlights the challenges the world will face throughout the rest of the century. Extreme weather, agricultural disruptions and other crises are expected to proliferate as the decades go on and the fallout of rampant carbon dioxide emissions continue to exacerbate climat change.

A recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights some likely scenarios for the future. When it comes to discussing disasters, there is a variety of scientific consensus on different issues. Many believe, for example, that maximum hurricane wind strength will rise as global sea-surface temperates increase. But when it comes to various means to manage risks climate extremes and disasters, there is “high agreement” on which solutions will work. The following is a list of many ideas expressed in the report.

Multi-hazard risk management approaches provide opportunities to reduce complex and compound hazards (high agreement, robust evidence).
Considering multiple types of hazards reduces the likelihood that risk reduction efforts targeting one type of hazard will increase exposure and vulnerability to other hazards, in the present and future.

Opportunities exist to create synergies in international finance for disaster risk management and adaptation to climate change, but these have not yet been fully realized (high confidence).
International funding for disaster risk reduction remains relatively low as compared to the scale of spending on international humanitarian response. Technology transfer and cooperation to advance disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are important. Coordination on technology transfer and cooperation between these two fields has been lacking, which has led to fragmented implementation.

Stronger efforts at the international level do not necessarily lead to substantive and rapid results at the
local level (high confidence).
There is room for improved integration across scales from international to local.

Integration of local knowledge with additional scientific and technical knowledge can improve disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (high agreement, robust evidence).
Local populations document their experiences with the changing climate, particularly extreme weather events, in many different ways, and this self-generated knowledge can uncover existing capacity within the community and important current shortcomings. Local participation supports community-based adaptation to benefit management of disaster risk and climate extremes. However, improvements in the availability of human and financial capital and of disaster risk and climate information customized for local stakeholders can enhance community-based adaptation (medium agreement, medium evidence).

Appropriate and timely risk communication is critical for effective adaptation and disaster risk management (high confidence). Explicit characterization of uncertainty and complexity strengthens risk communication. Effective risk communication builds on exchanging, sharing, and integrating knowledge about climate-related risks among all stakeholder groups. Among individual stakeholders and groups, perceptions of risk are driven by psychological and cultural factors, values, and beliefs.

An iterative process of monitoring, research, evaluation, learning, and innovation can reduce disaster risk and promote adaptive management in the context of climate extremes (high agreement, robust evidence).
Adaptation efforts benefit from iterative risk management strategies because of the complexity, uncertainties, and long time frame associated with climate change (high confidence). Addressing knowledge gaps through enhanced observation and research can reduce uncertainty and help in designing effective adaptation and risk management strategies.

JetBlue Pilot’s Meltdown Tests Emergency Procedures

A JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas had to be diverted to Texas yesterday after the plane’s captain had an apparent breakdown, requiring emergency procedures to swing into action that resulted in the pilot being locked out of the cabin and restrained by passengers and crew.

According to reports, the incident began when the co-pliot noticed that Captain Clayton Osbon was “acting erratically” in the cockpit and was flipping switches unnecessarily and seemed incoherent. The co-pilot persuaded Osbon to leave the cockpit and then locked the door behind him and changed the security code. Osbon became more agitated and began running up and down the aisle before banging on the cockpit door demanding to be let back in. Crew members attempted to calm him down but he became more irate and reportedly began screaming about Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Al Queda and that the plane was “going to be taken down.” Eventually a group of passengers, led by security personnel who were on their way to a conference in Las Vegas, tackled Osbon, restrained him with seat belts and sat on him for the remainder of the flight. An off-duty pilot who had also been a passenger assisted the co-pilot to safely land the plane in Amarillo, Texas, where Osbon was taken to a local hospital for observation. None of the 131 passengers or six crew members were harmed.

Osbon, who was a 12-year veteran of JetBlue and and a flight standards captain in charge of cockpit and safety procedures was described as a “consummate professional” by company CEO Dave Barger and had no history of incidents in the past. The FAA does require medical checks every year for pilots under the age of 40 and every six months for pilots older than 40. Although there is no formal psychiatric evaluation, these assessments include mental health questions and fellow crew members are trained to be on the lookout for any signs of mental distress.

Judging by the quick-thinking actions of the co-pilot and crew, with a big assist from the passengers, the system worked:

“I’d say the system functioned properly,” said Dave Funk, a retired Northwest Airlines captain and an aviation consultant with Laird & Associates. “There’s a reason we have two pilots. There’s a reason we have flight attendants. … One healthy pilot on the flight deck who’s qualified would have no problem landing the plane.”

This was the second incident this month in which passengers had to subdue unruly airline personnel. On March 9, passengers helped restrain an American Airlines flight attendant who got on the intercom before takeoff and ranted about 9/11 and airline safety before finally being removed from the plane.

Spokane’s Risk Management Vendor Reportedly Pressured Police to Hide Car Crash Details

Some disturbing news coming out of Spokane, Washington, according to The Spokesman-Review.

The City of Spokane may sever its contract with its risk management firm following allegations that the firm pressured police and a city employee to hide potentially incriminating details surrounding a 2010 collision that paralyzed a pedestrian.

According to documents obtained by lawyers representing the paralyzed woman, the city’s contracted insurance adjusters were able to influence the removal of certain details from the official press release about the crash, and reportedly sought to influence the police investigation.

The adjusters, in fact, were able to interview crash witnesses before the investigating officer, who was later advised that “if you guys want a raise” he should work with the risk managers to save the city some money, the documents show.

“To me, it looks like … risk management runs things in a way the public is not aware,” said Breean Beggs, who is one of three attorneys representing Patricia Searl, 70, who was paralyzed when hit by the city vehicle when crossing the street. “It’s troubling when they are interviewing witnesses before police can, and really troubling that they are trying to influence a police investigation by implying that he will get a raise if he handles it a certain way.”

City Administrator Theresa Sanders agreed.

Sanders said Monday that Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley has been asked to investigate its contract with the risk-manager, Alternative Service Concepts, which has an office in City Hall, “to determine whether we will do business with this vendor at all.”

“I do not think it’s appropriate,” Sanders said of the behavior described in the documents. “Understanding that risk management’s role is to protect the city’s assets, they should always do so in a legal, professional and appropriate way.”

Read the rest of the troubling report over at Spokesman.com

Storm Risk Reaches Well Beyond Tornado Alley

We’ve heard it over and over again: 2011 was the costliest year on record for natural disasters. From triple-digit heat waves and devastating drought to overflowing rivers and deadly tornadoes, the U.S. rang up natural disaster costs in the billions and much time and effort of rebuilding.

But what wasn’t talked about so much was the fact that much of the tornado risk was located outside of the traditionally storm prone tornado alley, according to a new report by CoreLogic. “The apparent increase in the number of incidents and shift in geographic distribution of losses that occurred last year in the U.S. called the long-held notion of risk concentration in Tornado Alley into question, and is leading to changes in risk management policy and procedure,” said Dr. Howard Botts, vice president and director of database development for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions.

CoreLogic’s “Tornado and Hail Risk Beyond Tornado Alley” report analyzes hazard risk at the state-level across the U.S using the company’s wind and hail data layers. Key findings include:

  • Tornado risk actually extends across most of the eastern half of the U.S. rather than being confined to the Midwest
  • According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), of the top ten states with the highest number of tornado touchdowns between 1980 and 2009, only three actually fell within Tornado Alley
  •  At least 26 states have some area facing extreme tornado risk
  • At least 11 states have significant areas facing extreme hail risk, and almost every state east of the Rocky Mountains has some area facing a moderate or higher level of hail risk
  • The area of highest hail risk extends outward from the central Great Plains to include states as far east as Georgia and the Carolinas

These findings have obvious insurance implications, but it goes beyond that to disaster preparation and natural catastrophe risk management in areas not historically prone to such events. CoreLogic released the maps below, indicating tornado peril in non-tornado alley states.

Insurers and residents alike should be aware of the high risk of tornadoes, wind and hail in these areas. For the complete report, including and in-depth descprition of how CoreLogic created the above maps, click here.