Treat your home like your car and maintain it regularly to stay safer in cyclones or strong winds.
That’s some of the advice Adjunct Associate Professor Geoff Boughton, from James Cook University’s Cyclone Testing Station (CTS), will share with delegates in a panel session at the AIDA XVI World Insurance Congress Australia (WICA 2023).
The Australian Insurance Law Association (AILA) will host the international insurance law association AIDA’s flagship event on 30 August to 1 September 2023 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Dr Boughton says regular building maintenance is a sensible mitigation move. “Insurance helps smooth the path for post-disaster recovery, but mitigation is about avoiding the risk in the first place and the two work well together.”
For example, upgrading a roof’s tie-downs to manage higher wind loads may cost “a few thousand dollars, but losing a roof would cost hundreds of thousands”.
Dr Boughton suggests insurers and brokers advise clients to consider their homes are like their cars and require regular maintenance.
A homeowner may think they’ve escaped the wrath of a cyclone or high-wind event, but there can be hidden damage, meaning the building is more vulnerable when another storm hits.
“Few of us would drive a car that’s been in an accident without it being checked out, even if it seems OK. The same applies with buildings,” Dr Boughton says.
“A builder or engineer should check whether the main structural elements are still working well, particularly if there has been a recent significant wind event.”
CTS research has shown homeowners better understand the benefits of investing in risk mitigation if they have experienced a cyclone in the past.
Dr Boughton says homeowners also respond to peer pressure. If neighbours are spending money on home improvements to increase safety, rather than purely cosmetic enhancements, others are likely to follow suit.
Incentivising homeowners helps, but Dr Boughton admits that’s “a really tricky problem”.
He says the Queensland Government has a successful Household Resilience Program that helps homeowners with the cost of cyclone-resilient improvements in north Queensland.
Dr Boughton warns of the personal trauma that can compound the financial cost of serious cyclone damage to properties.
“An insurance payout is helpful, but your life’s a mess until your house is fixed and that could take years.”
At WICA 2023, Dr Boughton will expand on CTS research that helps develop effective building practices, improve safety in high-wind events, and reduce the costs of wind damage.
He warns that high-wind events are not confined to cyclone-prone regions. “Winds that hit The Gap, in Brisbane, in 2008, created similar levels of damage. We all need to think about preparing our buildings to withstand high winds in the future.”
Other speakers on the WICA 2023 panel session on mitigating climate risks are Ryan Crompton, Managing Director of research body Risk Frontiers, and Professor Sara Landini, from the University of Florence, who will explain how motor insurers can promote ecodriving to reduce carbon emissions.
Registration is open for the World Insurance Congress with early bird offers available until 30 June.
WICA 2023 chair and AILA’s immediate past president Angus Kench says the congress is a unique opportunity to draw international visitors from AIDA’s global chapters to Australia.
The event starts with presentations from each of AIDA’s 13 working parties that closely examine specific insurance issues from global and regional perspectives.
Panelists and expert speakers will then present sessions on four key themes – climate, conflict, ESG, and innovation and careers.
The speaker program is continually updated as more global industry leaders commit to presenting at WICA 2023.
Australia has hosted the prestigious event – held every four years – only once before, in Sydney in 1994.
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