More protection needed against natural hazards

Switzerland is not safe from natural disasters, such as flooding in the town of Brig in 1993 Keystone

A national committee has called for improved protection against natural catastrophes in Switzerland, demanding more funding for prevention work.

This content was published on May 18, 2005

Federal and local authorities spend at least SFr2.5 billion ($2.04 billion) every year on protection measures against potential disasters.

The National Platform for Natural Hazards said in its latest report to the government that safeguards could be improved despite the large sums of money invested each year.

The report, presented on Wednesday, said that risk evaluation in particular needed to be reviewed.

The aim would be to properly identify risks, evaluate the degree of danger involved and devise ways of reducing a threat using different protection measures.

Committee members also want to see the creation of a risk-evaluation guide as well as courses for specialists.

New factors

The committee has called for wider debate about natural hazards to make people more aware of the dangers. It is demanding that the organisation of risk management be improved and that responsibilities be clearly defined.

The non-partisan commission wants natural events such as heatwaves and major storms, which have not been factored in until now, to be taken into account as well.

All major potential hazards are to be registered as well as the measures taken to avoid a catastrophe. The committee said that such a registry would allow specialists to evaluate the cost-efficiency of preventive action.

Private insurers paid out SFr96 million in 2003 for damage caused by natural events. This sum can vary considerably from year to year.

In 2001 companies paid out SFr212 million to their clients. Estimates put the cost of a major earthquake in Switzerland at several billion francs.

Last year the Swiss Seismological Service warned that Switzerland should expect to be hit by earthquakes up to a magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter scale.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The government created the national committee on natural dangers in 1997.
Its mandate outlines three tasks.
Develop a strategy to protect the population.
Raise awareness about the potential risks of natural disasters.
Develop synergies with other organisations operating in disaster management.

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In brief

Swiss law requires insurers to include coverage for natural catastrophes as part of fire insurance contracts.

All policyholders pay a uniform premium rate for natural catastrophe coverage, which is part of the fire insurance premium.

The Swiss government does not provide a state guarantee to cover losses from a major catastrophe, but state and private insurers have developed programmes to share catastrophe losses.

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