Aviva invests in pioneering technology to measure flash flooding

Article date: 15 April 2010

The UK’s largest insurer has developed a unique flood model that can estimate the damage freak downpours can inflict on homes and businesses across the country. 

Dramatic rain storms forced hundreds of people out of their homes in the summer of 2007. Residents of Cockermouth experienced similar horrors when record rainfall fell in one day in the Cumbrian town last November.

Understanding the impact of intense rain storms has always been a challenge for insurers and the agencies involved in flood-risk management, but now Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer, has come one step closer to solving that problem.

Working in partnership with hydrologists JBA Consulting*, the map has been developed using laser technology that recognises undulations in the ground as small as 15cms/6ins. The map has then been “flooded” with a simulation of a 200-year rain storm and a digital model has been created for where the water falls and pools.**

The surface water data is a further enhancement to the insurer’s existing flood map that was launched in 2004 and pin-points flood risk down to a single property rather than assuming all properties in a postcode area are alike.

Previously the map focused on coastal and river flooding risk together with historical claims data. The additional data means the model now addresses the ever-growing threat that freak downpours can have on our towns and cities.

It is for insurance purposes only and will enable the insurer to more accurately assess each customer’s individual circumstances.

Simon Black, head of flood mapping at Aviva, says the map is an important addition to the insurer’s knowledge of flood and its ever increasing risks.

“We know that the kind of intense rain storms seen in 2007 and again in Cumbria in 2009, are likely to become more frequent as the climate changes.

“So continued investment in flood technology, that recognises this increasing peril, enables us to gain more clarity and insight into who is a risk and who is not. And that means Aviva can offer the right price for the right risk and actually gives us greater opportunity to write more business because we better understand that risk.

“It also improves our ability to help customers in the event of a flood claim as we will have a greater knowledge of which areas are likely to be flooded, so we can ensure we can direct the right resources to the right places as quickly as possible.

“Insurance though is only part of the flooding equation. While we can replace belongings and repair people’s water-soaked homes, we can’t prevent filthy flood water getting into your home in the first place. So it is also up to local authorities and Government to continue to invest in flood defences and better drainage systems and for homeowners and businesses to consider what they can do to help protect their properties from damage." 

Jill Boulton, technical director at JBA Consulting, who developed the map with Aviva, said: “Surface water flooding, the like of which we saw in Hull in 2007, can affect homeowners who aren’t anywhere near a river and who don’t live on a flood plain. This flood model is a huge advance in understanding the risk that surface water presents and certainly means that Britain is leading the way in this kind of mapping technology.

“It also helps answer the questions that cannot be explained by just river flooding maps – how do we measure the impact that freak downpours can have on homes and businesses? This technology means we are well on the way to solving that problem.”


For further information please contact:
Rebecca Holmes at Aviva’s UK Insurance press office on 01603 685177/07800 690731 or Erik Nelson on 01603 682264/07989 427086 

Notes to Editors

* JBA Consulting is one of Europe’s leading specialists in risk and environmental management. In the UK it is the leading provider of surface water flood underwriting solutions. They are an independent company providing mapping information to government bodies, local authorities and private companies. For more information go to http://www.jbaconsulting.co.uk/.

** 125 cities and major urban areas across the UK have been modelled to 15cms/6ins in accuracy.

About Aviva
Aviva is the world’s fifth largest* insurance group, serving 53 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

Aviva's main business activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion at 31 December 2009.

We are the largest insurance services provider in the UK and one of the leading providers of life and pensions products in Europe.  

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* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2008

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