The 8.9 magnitude earthquake -- the greatest in magnitude ever to hit Japan -- and tsunami that ravaged Japan earlier today and threatens the entire Pacific Basin is clearly an insurance event, not just because of the property damage and likely billions of dollars in claims – but also because of the role capabilities such as catastrophe modeling and predictive analytics are playing in determining the path of the tsunami and potential scope of the damage.
This is a story that will be unfolding over many days, but thanks to technology we already know a lot about what has happened. These include the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center's "tsunami forecast model" of wave heights above normal sea level across the region and how long after the 0546 GMT earthquake they were expected. There is no shortage of professional and amateur video:
As I write this I'm listening to an interview with an American ex-pat in Japan who's discussing how everyone in the train station he was in when the earthquake struck discuss how everyone around him was tweeting about the earthquake on their smart phones as it happened.
And while the worst devastation probably will be in Japan, the impact and potential disruption of business is global. For example, Insurance & Technology colleagues based in our company UBM TechWeb's offices in San Francisco have been advised: "BART [San Francisco's rapid transit system] officials say they are trying to determine whether to shut down the transit system in advance of the expected tsunami. If service is indeed suspended, trains may not run between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. between West Oakland and Daly City."
The coming hours and days will no doubt tell a very compelling story about technology's role in risk forecasting, claims response and even survival amid this terrible disaster.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio