In Spring 2017 CAR marked its 30th anniversary with a series of discussion forums at the Gwydir Street offices. They were a great success, attracting many visitors to CAR’s office.

The last of the series of forums was hosted by the Risk Group on November 17th at the Cripps Conference Centre at Magdalene College. The seminar looked at some of the recent progress in managing risks from natural catastrophes, examining both CAR’s contribution, and that of some of CAR’s leading collaborators.  A series of seven 15-minute talks was followed by substantial discussion sessions and a drinks reception.

More than 50 people attended the seminar from the insurance industry, engineering consultancy, government and academia.   Delegates came from as far as Kyoto, Edinburgh and Delft, and the mix of senior people from different backgrounds led to some lively discussions, both during the meeting and in the informal sessions.

Antonios Pomonis (CAR and World Bank) began the seminar, on a Skype link from Greece, with a presentation about the changes in the practice of risk assessment over the last 30 years, emphasising huge increases in our understanding of the hazards, exposures and vulnerability, and identifying some remaining challenges.

Robin Spence (CAR) gave an account of CAR’s work over 30 years in assembling and archiving post-earthquake damage data, and using this data to create fragility relationships, using tools included in the CEQID (damage and casualty data) and Snapandmap (photographic) databases; he then looked at the challenges of using newly available observation tools to collect future damage data.

Luca Leone (CAR) described the development of GEVES (Global Earthquake Vulnerability Estimation System), a building-vulnerability-based tool designed by CAR for global insurance applications, and its recent updates and extensions, including the newly developed tool WSTR (WindSTormRisk).

Steve Platt (CAR) gave an account of his research to establish the most important drivers of speed and quality in post-earthquake recovery, using data from 10 recent earthquakes, after all of which he had personally conducted field observations and interviews.  Post-disaster management proved to be the most important factor, far more significant than any demographic or economic factors.

Andrew Coburn (Centre for Risk Studies, Judge Business School, Cambridge University) gave a description of the Pandora project, in which the potential impact of 22 different threats to each of the world’s 300 most important cities has been measured (with CAR contributions to some of the threats). Some ideas for applications beyond the insurance industry to help bridge the insurance gap for lower-income communities were presented.

Matthew Free (Arup) discussed the application of risk assessment tools for estimating losses for cities in developing counties to help them build resilience to future disasters. The example of flood and landslide risk for Freetown, Sierra Leone, was presented, showing how a recent landslide disaster should have been predicted from previous risk mapping.

Christian Geiss (Earth Observation Centre, DLR, Germany) showed how the availability of high-resolution satellite imagery coupled with machine learning, can be used to create a huge step forward in our mapping of the buildings and other infrastructure at risk from natural disasters.

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