Injuries sustained at mass shootings covered by travel insurance

NICK EAGLAND | Vancouver Sun

Canadian travellers injured in mass-casualty events such as Sunday’s shooting in Las Vegas could face financial devastation without travel insurance.

Six Canadians were among more than 500 people who were injured in the deadly attack Sunday night, including 21-year-old Sheldon Mack of Victoria. Mack was in intensive care Monday after he was shot twice and suffered a ruptured colon and broken forearm.

Also injured were Jan Lambourne of Teulon, Man., Jody Ansell of Stonewall, Man., Steve Arruda of Calgary, Alta., Carrie-Lynn Denis of Leoville, Sask. and Ryan Sarrazin of Camrose, Alta.

Will McAleer, president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada, said a typical travel insurance policy, which can cost a few dollars per day, will “absolutely” cover emergency treatment for significant trauma such as gunshot wounds, which can require intensive surgery, rehabilitation and air evacuation, otherwise costing upwards of US$300,000.

McAleer said travel insurance is also important because it provides assistance services that help people navigate health care systems abroad, where they may need someone advocating for them and acting as a point of contact for family members at home.

He recommends travellers carry copies of their policies with them at all times or use their smartphones to photograph their policy number and insurer’s emergency contact information.

McAleer said it’s vital to plan ahead and protect yourself with insurance when travelling, no matter the destination.

“The sad part, that I think we’re facing, is that this is sort of becoming the new normal,” McAleer said.

“We think, ‘Be careful before you travel to a risky place,’ maybe the Middle East, et cetera. But now, whether it’s Orlando, London, New York City — whether it’s Edmonton — these things are happening with increased frequency.”

Global Affairs Canada advised anyone in Las Vegas who needs emergency consular assistance to call the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles at 1-844-880-6519 or the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa directly at 1-613-996-8885.

— Nick Eagland with files from Canadian Press

British Columbia wildfires cause more than $127 million in insured damage

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reports that the two most significant wildfires in British Columbia this summer caused more than $127 million in insured damage, according to Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ).

“The size and scale of the wildfires this summer have been the largest in British Columbia’s history,” said Aaron Sutherland, Vice-President, Pacific, IBC. “These wildfires are yet more evidence that severe weather events are happening with greater frequency and intensity across Canada. Given these trends, a more disciplined and sustained approach is required to help British Columbians prepare for natural disaster.  Governments, businesses, and individuals all have a role to play to help build a culture of preparedness in this province.”

The wildfires around Williams Lake caused close to $100 million in insured damage to homes, vehicles, and businesses, while the Elephant Hill wildfire caused over $27 million in insured damage. These fires also caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents to emergency centres in KamloopsPrince George, and across the province.

“Immediately following the evacuations, IBC and Canada’s insurers were on the ground in BC’s interior and Cariboo helping evacuees with their insurance-related questions,” added Sutherland. “We were proud to work in close partnership with the Government of British Columbia, Emergency Management BC, local municipalities, and the Canadian Red Cross to help British Columbians affected by these fires get the service and support they needed.”

For more information on how to protect property against fires and other disasters please visit IBC’s website.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 120,000 Canadians, pays $9 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $49 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow IBC on Twitter @InsuranceBureau or like us on Facebook. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.

About CatIQ
Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) delivers detailed analytical and meteorological information on Canadian natural and man-made catastrophes. Through its online subscription-based platform, CatIQ combines comprehensive insured loss indices and other related information to better serve the needs of the insurance and reinsurance industries, public sector and other stakeholders. To learn more, visit www.catiq.com.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

 

Fort McMurray fires cause air pollution spike on other side of continent

Fort McMurray fires cause air pollution spike on other side of continent

By Margo McDiarmid, CBC News

The huge wildfire in Fort McMurray last year caused air pollution to spike as far away as the New England states, more than 4,000 kilometres away, experts say.

“It was such a wide swath,” said Michael Geigert, air quality meteorologist with Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Geigert says he was surprised that normally clean air from Canada was carrying such high levels of ozone. It is a clear example, say scientists, of how air pollution from wildfires can be transported long distances.

Pollution levels spiked so much that seven U.S. states applied to the country’s federal Environmental Protection Agency for a special exemption for pollution levels that exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Geigert led the effort, making the case that airborne chemicals created by the Alberta fire created high levels of ozone on the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

“High pressure trapped pollutants from the wildfire over the upper Great Lakes for several days before normally clean northwest winds transported ‘unhealthy’ levels of ozone to the east and southeast across New York State and then to Connecticut,” the state wrote in its case to the EPA earlier this year.

The Fort McMurray fire forced the largest evacuation in Alberta’s history as it destroyed 590,000 hectares and 2,400 buildings. It was declared under control on July 5, 2016 but wasn’t fully extinguished until over a year later on August 2, 2017.

Geigert said the worst conditions were between May 25 and 28, 2016, when massive plumes of smoke billowed into the Alberta air. That smoke contained a toxic cocktail of chemicals that mixed with sunlight to create ozone.

“In this case, they were elevated almost to the stratosphere, well above 10,000 feet, 20,000 feet,” he said in an interview with CBC News.

“They created their own environment, almost thunderstorms, so they were transported high into the atmosphere.This allowed the plume to be transported very far away.”

Ozone becomes a dangerous air pollutant when it drops near the ground and mixes with heat. That happened in late May 2016 when the ozone drifted towards the northeastern U.S. states at the same time as summer temperatures soared. Ozone levels rose in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and Ohio.

Air quality already poor

New England states already struggle with high levels of air pollution because air currents carry emissions from coal-burning power plants and industrial sources from states in the south and midwest. Geigert says the Fort McMurray fire tipped the air pollution levels in Connecticut into the danger zone.

“It was code red — eight-hour averages over 84 parts per billion, and that is considered unhealthy for the general population,” said Geigert.

“Very little is due to what Connecticut does. It’s due to all sources upwind,” he said. “And these forest fires, which no one has any control over, just exacerbate the situation.”

The air quality on the other side of Canada was also affected, according to Paul Makar, a senior research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“The pollutants will travel thousands of kilometres,” said Makar in an interview with CBC News.

“For the Fort McMurray fires, for that matter, we’ve seen on satellite data … the pollution going all the way from Alberta right through here where we are in Ontario, out over the Atlantic and on the way to Europe.”

Makar says the rise of ozone levels in Canada due to the fires was less drastic than in the U.S. because the baseline air pollution here was at a lower level.

Makar points out that wildfires can have a huge impact on local air quality, as they did in B.C. this past summer when wildfires combined to create the largest blaze in the province’s history.

And the increased ozone levels have made their way downwind, Makar says.

“You can certainly see the effect. What we are seeing from the summer, it is just as bad as the Fort Mac fire, or worse.

“This stuff kills people,” he said.

Environment Canada has set up a team to monitor wildfires and the effects of their emissions on air quality. The agency has also set up a website where Canadians can check “smoke forecast maps” that show how the air quality in their area may be affected by wildfire smoke.

Cars and trucks drive though the thick smoke caused by wildfires just outside of Kamloops, B.C., in July. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The EPA ruled in July 2017 that the Connecticut wasn’t to blame for its spike in ozone.

Still, the Fort McMurray fire experience has made scientists in Connecticut a lot more wary about what might be drifting their way from Canada.

Geigert has been keeping an eye on the smoke from the B.C. fires. More than 100 wildfires are still burning there, although evacuation orders and alerts have been lifted.

Geigert says much cooler temperatures in New England have kept ozone levels low this year, but he’s still watching for warning signs.

“We have to realize this long-distance transport is really a factor and warn the public if we see it unfolding,” he said.

Late August flooding in Windsor region caused more than $124 million in insured damage

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reports that a significant flooding event in Windsorresulted in more than $124 million in insured damage, according to Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ).

From August 28 – 29, a slow-moving area of low pressure produced significant rainfall over areas of southwestern Ontario. These rains, up to 290mm in some areas, brought major flooding to WindsorTecumseh, and other parts of Essex County. The Windsor Airport broke a rainfall record, receiving 100mm of rain in a short period of time. Over 1,000 basements were reported flooded and water levels were waist-high in some areas.

“Climate change is causing severe weather events to happen more frequently and with greater intensity, especially storms involving floods. While the insured damage from these floods is significant, the total cost to homeowners and government is not yet known,” said Kim Donaldson, Vice-President, Ontario, IBC. “Because flooding can cause significant damage in a very short amount of time, it is critically important for consumers to know what their policies cover and whether they have sewer backup or overland flood protection. Sewer backup coverage is widely available as an add-on product to most standard home insurance policies. Overland flood protection is available across the province from several insurers. Consumers in high-risk areas and areas prone to frequent floods may run into difficulty finding affordable coverage. Consumers should check with their insurance representatives to see what options are available to them.”

For more information on how to protect property against floods and other disasters please visit IBC’s website.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 120,000 Canadians, pays $9 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $49 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow IBC on Twitter @InsuranceBureau or like us on Facebook. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.

About CatIQ
Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) delivers detailed analytical and meteorological information on Canadian natural and man-made catastrophes. Through its online subscription-based platform, CatIQ combines comprehensive insured loss indices and other related information to better serve the needs of the insurance and reinsurance industries, public sector and other stakeholders. To learn more, visit www.catiq.com.

If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

What to do when a hurricane blows away your vacation plans

By Beth J. Harpaz

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

What do you do when a hurricane blows away your vacation plans? The Associated Press asked Pauline Frommer of Frommers.com and the Frommer travel guidebook series for advice.

WHERE TO START

Frommer says it all depends on “how you booked that vacation.” If you booked an air-hotel package through Expedia, contact Expedia. If you booked it “a la carte” booking hotel, cruise and airfare separately on your own contact each vendor or company separately.

HOW ABOUT REFUNDS?

If you’re going to a Caribbean island that suffered some damage but the hotel reopens, Frommer says you’re likely not going to catch a break.

On the other hand,  “If you’re going to a place that seems like it’s been blown off the map, like sadly St. Martin, you may have a better chance of getting a refund,” she said.

Often travel providers try to “get you to shift your plans.” Many of the cruise lines are announcing they’ll still go to the Caribbean but just to a different island than originally planned.

“If you’ve already been to those Caribbean islands and you were hoping to see ones that are not currently accepting visitors, you may be out of luck,” she said. There are also cases where seven-night cruises are reduced to four-night cruises and cruise lines seem to be giving money back in those cases.

For cancelled cruises,  “they’re giving not only full refunds but depending on the cruise lines, they’re giving a little extra: 25 per cent off another cruise or 50 per cent.”

Airline policy is. “fluid,” Frommer said, with some waiving change fees for future travel if you rebook before a certain deadline, allowing you to apply the cost of the flight you no longer want to a new destination. But details vary, so contact the airline.

Be prepared to spend time online or on the phone. “Patience will be a real virtue right now,” Frommer said. If you booked through a travel agency, they may be able to make those changes for you. As a last resort, “contact your credit card company. They may be able to duke it out for you.”

HOTELS, HOME RENTALS AND THIRD-PARTY SITES

If you booked a home rental and made a deposit through a site like Homeaway.com or VRBO.com, they “act as the middleman” and “set up lines to help you get through to the individual owners,” Frommer said. “They’re not going to get you your money back but they are trying to facilitate communications. … However they will not step in if you can’t get your security deposit back.”

WHAT? NO REFUND IF WE PAID FOR LODGING IN ADVANCE?

“That’s a lesson we’re all learning,” Frommer said. “It’s in their contracts that usually they’re off the hook for all but the most egregious of circumstances, for example, if it’s a scam and there’s no home there. But with natural disasters, there’s often an act of God clause that means they do not owe you anything when things go horrifically wrong on a huge scale.”

Again, Frommer said, “it all depends on how you booked.” If you made a reservation with no money down, “you should be able to cancel without penalty.” But if you paid in advance for a discount on a hotel booking website,  “you could be on the hook.”

TRAVEL INSURANCE

“The majority of travel insurance policies will cover you in those cases if you’re travelling and the place is unsafe,” Frommer said. But “you cannot buy the insurance after the storm has been announced. Once it’s on the radar, you’re out of luck.”

Insurance may also fail to kick in if the hotel reopens even if the “beach is gone and the trees are down and all of its neighbours are in rubble. … If you can get there and stay there safely, it’s considered your vacation, even if it’s not the vacation of your dreams.”

Live in Canada but own property in Irma-hit areas? Here’s how to handle insurance

By Carolyn Ray, CBC News

Insurance bureaus north and south of the border say Canadians who own property in U.S. areas hit by Irma need to get on the phone and learn whether their homes have been damaged.

In 2015, the Bank of Montreal estimated that 500,000 Canadians owned property in Florida, parts of which were walloped by the hurricane Sunday and Monday.

Amanda Dean, vice-president Atlantic of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said it may be too soon to travel to the region, but it’s not too soon to contact your insurance company.

“The last thing you want to do is get in the way of first responders,” she said.

Both the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the American Insurance Association have tips for what property owners should do in the days ahead.

Call your caretaker

Whether it’s a caretaker, property manager or neighbour, ask someone who is already in the area to visit your property as soon as it is safe to do so.

“Have them take some photographs in the wake of a storm, so they can give you an idea of whether your house is generally in good shape or if you need to make a claim,” said Mike O’Malley of the American Insurance Association.

Contact your insurance provider

Both Dean and O’Malley said it’s important to be clear with the insurance provider that you are not in the country, and ask specifically what steps they need you to take.

O’Malley said emergency adjusters will be sent to the area to help sort through the thousands of claims and they will want to visit the property. You don’t have to be there to move ahead with the process.

“Most policies are going to require you to report as soon as reasonably possible,” said O’Malley. “You need to have somebody with keys to your house down there. They’re not going to break into your house to see interior damage.”

Clarify your coverage

In the United States, hurricanes fall under two different plans for homeowners.

Most plans generally cover damage from wind. But storm surge is covered by a secondary policy sold by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Make sure you are in contact with the appropriate insurers if you have different policies.

“Get that claims process started as quickly as possible,” said Dean.

Hire someone to fix immediate issues

It’s your responsibility to do any quick fixes, such as cover a hole in the roof.

“A homeowner’s insurance policy generally has some duties that are placed upon the policy holder upon the event of a loss,” said O’Malley.

“If you have damage to your property, it is your duty to make sure that if there are things you can do … that would prevent further damage to the property. You have a duty to do those things.”

Plan for next time

If you were one of the fortunate ones who didn’t experience any damage, this is a good chance to review policies and plan ahead.

Call your insurance company and ask direct questions about scenarios to make sure you’ll be covered the next time a storm hits. Snap a few photos on your phone to keep on hand if you experience any kind of damage.

“You really need two different policies, especially if you’re in a flood-prone area if you have storm surge,” said O’Malley, who suggests calling soon so “you wouldn’t be faced with the unfortunate prospect of trying to figure that out after the fact.”

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