Blaze expected to be costliest natural disaster for insurers in Canadian history

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Economical Insurance at University of Calgary delivering emergency funds and claims support

Economical Insurance is operating a third claims reporting centre in the Taylor Family Digital Library at the University of Calgary, providing on-the-ground claims support and emergency funds to customers affected by the wildfire in Northern Alberta. The company’s catastrophe response team is also operating in the Bold Center in Lac La Biche and in the Northlands Evacuation Centre in Edmonton.

“In the five days that we’ve been on the ground in Northern Alberta, we have delivered $1 million in emergency funding to our customers,” said Rocco Neglia, Vice-President, Claims for Economical Insurance. “This is proof positive that we are delivering on our promise to be there when our customers need us most.”

Calgary Evacuation Centre — University of Calgary
Taylor Family Digital Library
410 University Ct NW, Calgary, AB
Hours of operation: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. MT, 7 days a week

Lac La Biche Evacuation Centre — Bold Center
Second floor
8701 91 Ave, Lac La Biche, AB
Hours of operation: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. MT, 7 days a week

Northlands Evacuation Centre — Edmonton EXPO Centre
Hall G — East Entrance
7515 118 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB
Hours of operation: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. MT, 7 days a week

Reporting a Claim
Policyholders and brokers can report claims to 1-800-607-2424 or fax to 1-877-681-2048. When reporting a claim, please provide the policyholder’s temporary location and current phone number to help ensure a timely response.

About Economical Insurance
Founded in 1871, Economical Insurance is one of Canada’s leading property and casualty insurers, with $2.0 billion in premiums during 2015 and $5.3 billion in assets as at December 31, 2015. Based in Waterloo, this Canadian-owned and operated company services the insurance needs of more than one million customers across the country. Economical Insurance conducts business under the following brands: Economical Insurance, Economical, Western General, Economical Select, Perth Insurance, Family Insurance Solutions, and Economical Financial.

For further information, contact:
Doug Maybee
Economical Insurance
(T)519.570.8249
(C)519.404.0989
doug.maybee@economical.com

#FortMac: The real work is about to begin

#FortMac: The real work is about to begin

Excerpted article was written by John Clark

The fires are out in Fort McMurray. The real work is just beginning.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of firefighters, residents and area businesses, about 85 per cent of the northern Alberta community has survived Canada’s most devastating wildfire. Still, more than 2,400 structures have been destroyed and most of those are homes.

Compare that to the wildfire that struck Slave Lake in the spring of 2011, when 500 homes and buildings were destroyed at an estimated cost to repair/replace of $1 billion.

Help urgently needed

Local, provincial and federal resources have already mustered to deal with the aftermath. Let’s tick off the full scope of what this entails:

A big job for insurance companies: Many will likely assign adjustors full-time to Fort Mac to sort things out. For homeless residents in dire straits, the question is how quick insurers can respond and get the money flowing.

Loss of a home means loss of income: There could be upwards of 10,000 residents who need temporary food, shelter and basic necessities. They need to go to work if their place of work is still standing. Their kids have to go to school.

There are still bills to pay: Just because you’ve lost your home doesn’t make your mortgage or other bills go away. A typical insurance policy will only cover so much in terms of additional living expenses.

EI key for wildfire victims

That means the feds need to step in quickly with EI: They’re already taking steps to expedite employment insurance claims, as you can see here.

Local utilities and infrastructure: From the water supply to gas lines, powerlines and roads damaged by fire, all the infrastructure that supports a community must be tested, repaired or decontaminated.

The long-term impact on people: It’s only natural for people who have endured such a disaster to suffer some form of emotional trauma. This community could see a spike in the coming months and years in mental health issues and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which could strain the local healthcare system.

That other 85 per cent: Just because a home or other building didn’t burn doesn’t mean it hasn’t suffered some form of damage that must be addressed, such as from smoke.

A big cleanup: Before any reconstruction can begin, the mess from the fire has to be demolished and cleared away. This in itself is a massive job that may require decontamination and remediation of property and land.

Regulators need to step in

The logistics to address all this are staggering to consider. A high level of coordination and oversight is critical to ensure the rebuild can proceed as quickly and efficiently as possible while protecting the interests of everyone involved.

Regulators need to take action without becoming a bureaucratic hindrance.

That’s because there are always unscrupulous people who will take advantage of a situation, as well as well-meaning individuals and organizations that may simply find themselves in over their head. Local homebuilders, for example, will have never faced such overwhelming demand.

Take the reconstruction of the town of Slave Lake after the 2011 fire. This Global News story a year-and-a-half later chronicled the troubles a number of families were having with one local homebuilder. It appeared the homebuilder had run out money and left unpaid subcontractors and suppliers to put liens on the families’ properties.

Local economy in limbo

One point in favour of Fort McMurray’s residents is this disaster happened in the spring – it’s far less challenging to adequately serve thousands of homeless people this time of year than say, in winter. If we look back to the Halifax Explosion in December 1917, surviving winter became the greatest challenge for the 5,000 left homeless (a blizzard struck the very next day).

Thanks to a well-organized evacuation and the selfless efforts of average people, the death toll from this historic disaster was limited to two. Still, the effort to rebuild Fort McMurray will dwarf anything in Canada since Halifax.

Until Fort McMurray can get up and running again, the local economy is at a standstill. And that kind of setback couldn’t have come at a worse time, considering the impact of global oil prices on Alberta’s oilsands.

Much has been done, but much more remains to do.

Source: Property Biz Canada

It’s not just Alberta: Warming fueled fires are increasing

By Seth Borenstein

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON _ Alberta’s unusually early and large fire is just the latest of many gargantuan fires on an Earth that’s grown hotter with more extreme weather.

Earlier this year, large wildfires hit spots on opposite ends of the world Tasmania and Oklahoma-Kansas. Last year, Alaska and California pushed the U.S. to a record 10 million acres burned. Massive fires hit Siberia, Mongolia and China last year and Brazil’s fire season has increased by a month over the past three decades.

It got so bad that in 2009, Australia added a bright red “catastrophic” to its fire warning index.

“The warmer it is, the more fires we get,” said Mike Flannigan, a professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta.

This month, temperatures pushed past 90 degrees Fahrenheit (mid 30s Celsius) in Alberta, which is unusual for May in northern Canada.

It’s not quite so simple though. Many factors contribute to the complex increase in big fires, Flannigan and several experts said. They include climate change, the way people use land and firefighting methods that leave more fuel trees and brush to burn.

But the temperature one stands out, Flannigan said.

“The Alberta wildfires are an excellent example of what we’re seeing more and more of: warming means snow melts earlier, soils and vegetation dries out earlier, and the fire season starts earlier. It’s a train wreck,” University of Arizona climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck wrote in an email.

Worldwide, the length of Earth’s fire season increased nearly 19 per cent from 1979 to 2013, according to a study by Mark Cochrane, a professor of fire ecology at South Dakota State University.

Fires had steadily been increasing, but then in the late 1990s and early 2000s, “we’ve suddenly been hit with lots of these large fires we can’t control,” Cochrane said.

In terms of acreage burned, the worldwide total may be dropping because of better firefighting, but in North America and Siberia “fires have grown quite a bit due to warming,” Columbia University climate and ecology scientist Park Williams wrote in an email. “My estimate is that global warming has been responsible for about half of this increase.”

For the entire U.S., the 10-year average number of acres burned in wildfires has more than doubled from about 3 million acres in the mid-1980s to 7 million acres now, according to an analysis of government data by The Associated Press.

Twelve years before the Fort McMurray fire set northern Alberta ablaze, a study by Flannigan and University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver found that “human-induced climate change has had a detectable influence” on a dramatic increase in wildfires in Canada. Flannigan said the area burned in Canada has doubled since the 1970s “and we think that’s due to climate change.”

“Globally we are seeing more fires, bigger fires, more severe fires,” said Kevin Ryan, a retired U.S. Forest Service scientist who is now a fire consultant, with a recent stint in Indonesia, where fires were big last year.

Fires in some places, such as Indonesia and Canada, are bad when there’s an El Nino a warming of parts of the Pacific that changes weather worldwide because it triggers drought in those regions, Ryan said. In Indonesia, changes in land use are a bigger factor than climate, Ryan said.

But elsewhere, it’s temperature and moisture, too much of one and not enough of the other, scientists said. As the air warms, it gets “more efficient at sucking the moisture out of the fuels” which makes them more prone to burn, Flannigan said. Then add in lightning. A study found that lightning increases 12 per cent with every degree Celsius and that can trigger more fires. Flannigan said there’s evidence of fire-triggered clouds in Alberta causing at least two more fires because of lightning.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences earlier this year in a study determined that “climate warming has resulted in longer fire seasons.” But other factors, such as the way fires are fought and land use, make it difficult to scientifically attribute individual fires and regional fires to climate change, the report and other scientists said.

“This is absolutely a harbinger of things to come,” said Canadian climate scientist Weaver, now a Green party legislator in the British Columbia parliament.

canada-press

Insurance companies mobilize staff to begin claims process in Fort McMurray

By Morgan Lowrie

THE CANADIAN PRESS

As the wildfire situation in Fort McMurray, Alta., appeared to stabilize Sunday, insurance companies across Canada have already begun deploying mobile response units and flying in personnel to the province from across the country to prepare to assess the damage.

Most companies have natural disaster and crisis units that were deployed to emergency centres soon after all of Fort McMurray was placed under a mandatory evacuation order last Tuesday. More than 80,000 have left the community.

Some 16 insurance companies have established temporary claims offices at the Northlands evacuation centre in Edmonton, and 10 have set up further north in Lac la Biche, said Bill Adams, the vice-president for the western and pacific region for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Staff in the centres have been opening claims files and issuing emergency cheques for evacuees, he said.

“Some didn’t have identification except what’s in their vehicles. They don’t have access to their bank accounts, they have to reapply for their basic information,” he said. “So to be able to demonstrate with a vehicle registration that they are in fact who they are and to have funds given to them is a very emotional experience.”

A spokeswoman for Intact Insurance said the company has a catastrophe team that works year-round. It set up temporary claims centres “within hours” of the evacuation order.

Rosa Nelson said the company has opened offices in Edmonton, Lac la Biche and Calgary where agents are beginning the claims process and issuing $5,000 emergency cheques.

Craig Richardson, the vice president of claims operations for TD Insurance, says the company has sent about 30 people to work at shelters with evacuees,. It also mobilized 500 people internally across the country to help with anything from answering phones to flying out and assessing fire damage.

“I think speed matters a lot, and when you have these type of devastating and traumatic events customers need to understand we’re there to stand with them when they need us the most,” he said.

The company has also dispatched its two “mobile response units,” which are RVs customized to serve as satellite claims offices.

Adams says both the companies and private citizens are waiting for the government to let them enter the Fort McMurray area.

At that point, he expects hundreds of insurance adjusters to converge on Fort McMurray, as companies send teams with trucks and trailers of equipment to open field offices and begin processing claims.

The damage can range from the total loss of a residence to the cost of cleaning smoky carpets to replacing food in a refrigerator.

And although almost all home insurance covers fire damage, the size of the payout will be calculated based on factors including the type of damage, value of goods in the house and the type of policy purchased.

One RCMP officer said Saturday that officers were seeing significant signs of water and smoke damage during their checks of houses in the city.

Adams said the insurance industry was considering using satellite and drone technology to help survey and map damaged areas to make the claims process go more quickly, although he couldn’t estimate how long it would take.

He said that after the fires in Slave Lake, Alta in 2011, people who lost their homes had to wait anywhere from eight months to over two years for them to be rebuilt.

Many companies say they’ve had ample opportunity to practice their disaster response in recent years, especially in Alberta.

Between the Slave Lake fires and massive flooding in parts of southern Alberta in 2013, the province already accounts for almost 60 per cent of all insurance claims resulting from severe weather events, Adams said. That’s a number that’s likely to rise as the Fort McMurray claims start to come in.

Nelson said her company has seen “exceedingly more” natural disasters over the last ten years than ever before.

“We now almost consider this a normal course of business and we definitely are prepared and have good processes in place,” she said.

canada-press

Intact Financial Corporation releases estimates of the financial impact from the Fort McMurray wildfires

Intact Financial Corporation has initiated its catastrophe response plan in light of the wildfires in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas, with over 1,000 claims employees already helping affected customers. Intact Insurance, belairdirect and Canadian Direct Insurance are also on the ground at a number of emergency evacuation centres to assist customers.

“The devastation brought on by the wildfires is unprecedented,” said Charles Brindamour, Chief Executive Officer of Intact Financial Corporation. “The scope of the damage and destruction that we have observed in recent days is a reminder of the important role we play in getting our customers back on track.”

While early, Intact Financial’s assessment of its insured damages using satellite imagery and its exposure geocoding technology ranges from $1.00 to $1.20 per share after taking into account the effect of its reinsurance program and net of tax effects. This analysis assumes wildfires will not return to Fort McMurray.

Helping customers when they need us most

Intact’s dedicated team of adjusters, brokers, contractors, vendors and engineers is ready to help its customers to assess damages and begin to restore their lives.  To accelerate the process, Intact has mobilized its community response teams to provide assistance and support to its customers over the phone and in person.

Customers can call us 24/7:

  • Intact Insurance: 1 (866) 464-2424. Customers can also check www.intactassist.com for Intact Insurance’s updates on the situation.
  • belairdirect: 1 (877) 228-2656
  • Canadian Direct Insurance: 1 (888) 261-8888

 

About Intact Financial Corporation

Intact Financial Corporation (TSX: IFC) is the largest provider of property and casualty insurance in Canada with close to $8.0 billion in premiums. Supported by over 12,000 employees, the Company insures more than five million individuals and businesses through its insurance subsidiaries and is the largest private sector provider of P&C insurance in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador. The Company distributes insurance under the Intact Insurance brand through a wide network of brokers, including its wholly owned subsidiary, BrokerLink, and directly to consumers through belairdirect.

Forward-Looking Statements

Certain statements made in this news release are forward-looking statements. These statements include, without limitation, statements relating to the damages caused by the Fort McMurray wildfires, the terms and operation of the Company’s reinsurance program, the anticipated effect of applicable and future federal and provincial tax regulations as well as the Company’s potential exposure in Fort McMurray region. All such forward-looking statements are made pursuant to the ‘safe harbour’ provisions of applicable Canadian securities laws.

Forward-looking statements, by their very nature, are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties and are based on several assumptions, both general and specific, which give rise to the possibility that actual results or events could differ materially from our expectations expressed in or implied by such forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including our ability to precisely assess the Company’s total exposure in the Fort McMurray region in light of on-going events and those discussed in the Company’s most recently filed Annual Information Form and annual MD&A. As a result, we cannot guarantee that any forward-looking statement will materialize and we caution you against unduly relying on any of these forward-looking statements. Except as may be required by Canadian securities laws, we do not undertake any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements contained in this news release, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Please refer to the cautionary note of the Company’s most recently filed MD&A.

SOURCE Intact Financial Corporation

For further information: Media Inquiries: Stephanie Sorensen, Director, External Communications, 1 (416) 344-8027, stephanie.sorensen@intact.net; Investor Inquiries: Samantha Cheung, Vice President, Investor Relations, 1 (416) 344-8004, samantha.cheung@intact.net

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