February 8th, 2017

Public Sector Risk Financing Perspectives – Sharing Visual Intelligence for Disaster Response: Part II

Posted at 1:00 AM ET

beverley-adams-sm21Dr. Beverley Adams, Head of CAT Planning and Response


National disaster response plans of governments rarely include references to insurance or make provisions for visual intelligence as part of the operational response toolkit. Recent events reaffirm the value of visual intelligence - particularly when access to sites is restricted - and suggest that a more collaborative approach between emergency services and the insurance industry would enhance public sector response and facilitate community resilience.

Following the May 2016 wildfires in Alberta, Canada, insurers and loss adjusters were unable to access the town of Fort McMurray for more than three weeks - thousands of insurance claims were filed. The Alberta provincial government initiated an aerial mission over fire-damaged areas and then insurers used the captured images to hasten the payment of claims - the benefit of government/insurer collaboration is realized when visual intelligence is integrated into the fabric of state and government response plans.


A focused effort is needed to improve the regulatory pre-planning process for drone flights and the development of effective liaisons between emergency managers, insurers and drone operators. In June 2016, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released Part 107 regulations covering small and unmanned aircraft - opening airspace for commercial drone operators. For drones to become an effective disaster management imaging tool, two things need to happen. First, unmanned aircraft systems operators must apply to the FAA to receive a Part-107 waiver allowing flights over populated areas in disaster situations. Flying over populated areas may create a dangerous situation, but a thorough analysis of the issue may determine that the benefits of quick “ground-truthing” outweigh the risks. Second, because local and federal emergency management control the airspace in a disaster, protocols need to be developed with experienced drone pilots and emergency responders to determine the best way to share crowded airspace safely.

Visual intelligence, a rapidly evolving technology, is an important tool for enhancing and hastening disaster response. The current challenge is to ensure that regulatory procedures and operational protocols keep pace. The insurance industry provides critical disaster recovery support and strives to process claims quickly and efficiently. There is a strong case for improving the dialogue between the public sector and (re)insurers - both benefit when they share drone and satellite imagery. Willingness to put the necessary collaborative pathways in place, including overcoming regulatory and operational protocols, is essential.

Link to Part I>>

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