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think there is potentially a risk of a
mudslide,” said Marchitello.
“Then it’s a case of carrying
out your own investigation using
techniques such as satellite imagery
and looking at past events.”
Perhaps most importantly,
companies should have an emergency
and evacuation plan in place in the
event of a disaster, added Marchitello.
“Short of moving your operation,
there is very little you can do, however,
to protect your property from a
catastrophic event,” he said.
Michael Barry, vice president
of media relations at the Insurance
Information Institute, said that
companies also need to look closely at
land surveys and the property’s claims
“Risk managers must assess land
surveys and the claim-filing histories of
the properties their clients plan either
to purchase, or operate their businesses
on,” he said.
In terms of physical modifications
to property, Timothy Chaix, president
of R.E. Chaix & Associates, advised
that businesses can add vegetation, or
erect deflection barriers or retaining
walls to divert a mudslide.
However, he warned that they
would be liable if the diverted mud
caused damage to a neighboring
“Right now, there is a tremendous
amount of rain, particularly in
California, and the area has become
much more vulnerable to mudslides and
earth movement because the ground
was so dry before so it is not able to
soak up the water as easily,” he said.
LANDSLIDES BEING ADDED TO
Landslides have become so frequent
and severe that modelers are making
Dr. Jayanta Guin, chief research
officer at AIR Worldwide, said that
the risk modeling firm recently added
landslides into its earthquake model
for Canada with plans to incorporate a
similar component into its U.S. model
The new module will cover the 48
mainland states and model damage
caused by landslides resulting from
earthquake ground shaking.
“Landslide risk is calculated based
on a combination of slope information
derived from Digital Elevation
Model data, surficial and bedrock
geographical features that determine
how well the slope resists failure, and
soil wetness, which varies depending
on the time of year,” he said.
“The probability of a landslide
actually occurring is then calculated
based on the level of ground shaking.”
RMS also models the risk of
landslides within its earthquake
“These models provide a landslide
susceptibility class that is defined
by local soil;properties and the
slope angle,” said Ben Reynolds,
RMS specialist in earth sciences and
“This information can be used to
identify more vulnerable locations, and
would be automatically included as
part of the earthquake risk modeling
where we have identified significant
risk of landslides.”
Wes Anderson, national property
president at Risk Placement Services,
said that combining mapping and
working with FEMA to determine the
property’s designated flood zone and
elevation, enables businesses to decide
on the appropriate insurance coverage
“The most valuable coverage you
can buy is loss avoidance, especially
when the catastrophic peril of landslide
is the cause for discussion,” he said. &
ALEX WRIGHT is a U.K.-based business
journalist. You can reach him at