What happens when natural disaster strikes during a pandemic?

The excerpted article was written by Nicole Bogart CTVNews.ca 

TORONTO — While much of the country is consumed with the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, several communities are starting to grapple with another looming danger: natural disaster.

As western Canada prepares for the onset of wildfire season, and spring weather threatens regions of central and eastern Canada with flooding, those in affected regions are left questioning what might happen should natural disasters strike in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a question emergency preparedness experts say needs to be considered before it’s too late, while cautioning that the ongoing risk of the novel coronavirus will alter disaster response for years to come.

“Just having an elevated risk for COVID-19 changes the way that we think about disaster preparedness, disaster response and disaster recovery,” Andrew Kruczkiewicz, with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, told CTVNews.ca by phone from New York.

“Right now, we’re in a privileged position to think about some of these situations… these are important questions, and we have the responsibility and privilege to ask them now.”

Kruczkiewicz, an expert in risk assessment related to natural disasters, says the questions facing emergency response officials are twofold because officials will have to weigh the risk of current and potential outbreaks.

“We’re trying figure out how the questions we usually ask will deviate now that we have COVID-19. And not only current COVID-19 outbreaks, but the risk of future outbreaks,” he explained, noting that virus-free communities may not want outside help coming from other regions that have COVID-19 outbreaks.

“If there is a large-scale flood in a part of rural Canada that doesn’t have the virus, is there going to be a change in the way that we respond to that flood because the community doesn’t want the virus coming in?”

Other countries have already faced this debate.

After a recent cyclone struck the island of Vanuatu, which has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, humanitarian supplies flown in by the Australian government were left untouched for days due to strict quarantine rules.

In Canada, Kruczkiewicz notes that weighing the risk of introducing the virus to high-risk communities, especially Indigenous communities with poor health care support, could delay disaster response efforts by several days.

“I don’t think that would preclude firefighters or flood responders from coming in, but would it change the magnitude of that,” he explained.

CANADIANS ALREADY AT RISK

The changing magnitude of disaster response has already been on the minds of Canadian officials as flood and wildfire season begins.

A year after record flooding wiped out homes and triggered a military response, the rural Pontiac region of Quebec is already experiencing isolated flooding leading to evacuations.

At the same time, British Columbia’s wildfire service is bracing for a busy fire season, with 83 active fires already burning in the province. Last week, officials issued their first evacuation notice, forcing more than 120 Squamish Valley residents from their homes due to an encroaching wildfire.

Melanie Soler, vice president of emergency management at the Canadian Red Cross, says the organization began redesigning its response plans in January when the coronavirus began to spread globally.

“We’ve taken our regular hazard assessment and mapping tools and overlaid them with the COVID-19 information,” Soler told CTVNews.ca by phone, noting that the organization is paying special attention to high-risk and Indigenous communities.

“We’ve been working with communities to understand alternative ways of managing during an evacuation effort, whether it be sheltering in place or providing special considerations for communities coming out into host communities.”

Drawing on experiences from the 2016 fires in Fort McMurray and the B.C. wildfires of 2018, the organization says it has already taken most of its services online and implemented PPE protocols for workers across the country.

In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, Public Safety Canada said it’s working collaboratively with partners at all levels of government to prepare for potential emergency situations, noting that provinces and territories are responsible for the delivery of emergency management services.

“Contingency plans for flood and wildfire activities in the context of COVID-19 continue to be developed and incorporate considerations to align with the latest public health advice from regional, provincial, territorial and federal public health officials on COVID-19,” read the statement.

A spokesperson notes that, more than in previous years, sheltering in place will be recommended as a first measure for those affected by natural disasters. In instances where evacuation is necessary, the agency notes commercial and post-secondary lodging “is likely to be used” given high vacancy rates.

The military says it too is standing by in the event of a natural disaster.

“In an effort to address the natural disaster season in conjunction with the COVID-19 response, the Government of Canada has requested the assistance of the CAF with the whole-of-government COVID-19 response operations,” read an emailed statement issued to CTVNews.ca.

“We will co-ordinate efforts to provide for the appropriate degree of flexibility that will enable our forces to respond quickly and decisively to both natural disaster and COVID-19 emergency activities concurrently.”

But Kruczkiewicz notes that, although COVID-19 is still registering as a “shock to the system,” long-term measures must be enacted to prevent new outbreaks, especially before a vaccine is developed and released.

“We’ll have a generally decreased resilience to disasters for the next two years,” he said.

“So, how do we factor that in to the way that we develop our standard operating procedures to decrease risk of impact from disasters?”

NOW IS THE TIME TO PREPARE

Soler notes that the pandemic has shed new light on the importance of preparing an emergency kit.

“During this time, we’ve all been really reflective about what are the basics that we need,” she said.

She suggests that Canadians use extra time around the house to create a preparedness kit that they can keep in the car or somewhere safe in the house in the event of an evacuation.

Make sure to include things like insurance papers, prescription information, pet food or supplies that are unique to your family’s needs. More information can be found on the Red Cross website.

13,000 people forced from homes in Fort McMurray, Fort Vermilion

Read more

RSA Canada announces relief measures for Canadians in response to the COVID-19 crisis

“In the last month, Canadians have changed where they work, how much they drive and what they need to protect themselves, their families and their businesses,” says Martin Thompson, President and CEO, RSA Canada. “As a national insurer, our promise is to be there for our customers when they need us most, so we are implementing new measures to provide meaningful assistance during these uncertain times.”

Providing relief for those facing financial hardship
RSA Canada is providing several relief measures to assist Canadians who are impacted financially by COVID-19. Every customer’s situation and insurance needs are unique, so options are designed to provide enhanced flexibility and assistance. RSA Canada will also be implementing additional auto and property insurance premium relief measures moving forward, to support customers during the crisis.

The following measures will be in place until June 30, 2020 and will continue to be reviewed as the situation develops:

  • Reduced premiums for customers who are driving or commuting less or who are no longer using their vehicles if circumstances have changed due to the pandemic. Customers should contact their broker or insurance representative to make changes to their auto coverage.

  • Flexible payment options, payment deferrals and support for customers who are facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. Customers who have been impacted by the pandemic should contact their broker or insurance representative to discuss the available options.

  • Coverage for customers who are temporarily using their vehicle for delivery services – such as an employee of a pharmacy, restaurant, grocery store, or as part of an app-based food delivery service. This is available for all personal auto insurance policies and will not change the customer’s premium. Customers should contact their broker or insurance representative to confirm this coverage.

  •  NSF fees for personal and small commercial policies charged by RSA Canada occurring after April 1, 2020 will be waived. Some financial institutions may charge separate NSF fees and customers are encouraged to contact their local bank for more information.

  • As all Canadians are encouraged to ‘Stay at Home’, customers who are required by their employer to work from home due to the current situation with COVID-19 can rest assured that the coverage they already have in place will not be impacted.

To support its commercial insurance customers, RSA Canada is providing relief measures as well as guidance to help them mitigate any risks they face as a result of the pandemic. Commercial customers are encouraged to contact their broker to discuss options further.

  • For commercial insurance customers, RSA Canada is adjusting its rating approach to support business owners and the challenges many of them are facing.

  • For small and mid-sized businesses that have been directly impacted and are experiencing temporary closures and changes in operations, RSA Canada is working with its broker partners to be as flexible and accommodating as possible including allowing mid-term coverage adjustments, payment deferrals and premium adjustments.

  • For businesses that are making changes to their operations to support the current crisis, RSA Canada is providing flexible underwriting solutions.

  • RSA Canada is also providing guidance to help businesses that have shut down to protect their idle property and fleets.

Supporting the most vulnerable Canadians through Food Banks Canada
RSA Canada is donating $100,000 to Food Banks Canada to purchase food products for those who are living with food insecurities, especially during this challenging time. The company continues to match employee donations to community causes that they care about most, including local food banks, as part of its corporate responsibility program.

Currently, Canada’s supply chain is working in overdrive to keep up with the unprecedented demand for food and other goods due to the current pandemic. This has made it more difficult for food banks across the country to receive in-kind donations in the same quantity and frequency that they had before the pandemic.

Food Banks Canada is facing several challenges:

  • Drastic declines in the number of volunteers;
  • Significant surges in the number of clients accessing food through food banks;
  • Dwindling donations when compared to regular operations.

“Giving food to those in need can be difficult in the best of times and COVID-19 has made that task even harder,” says Chris Hatch, CEO, Food Banks Canada. “Food banks are experiencing high demand across the country as a growing number of Canadians suffer income loss. That’s why we’re grateful for the support of organizations, such as RSA Canada, which are helping provide nourishment to those who are most deeply affected by the pandemic.”

Canadians who are interested and in a position to support Food Banks Canada can make a donation at FoodBanksCanada.ca or contact their local food bank to determine which resources are needed most.

Customer-first commitment
As risk experts, RSA Canada’s employees have a role to play in helping customers manage the uncertainties and complexities of today’s world. RSA Canada continues to work with industry associations to identify and address common challenges and emerging issues that may impact customers, and to help them manage and get ahead of potential risks. All parts of the company are working hard to maintain strong service levels to ensure customers receive assistance when they need it most.

Customers are encouraged to leverage RSA Canada’s online claims submission tool which is available at RSAClaimsPoint.ca (not available in Quebec).

About RSA Canada
The RSA Canada group of companies includes Roins Financial Services Limited, Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada, Quebec Assurance Company, Johnson Inc., Unifund Assurance Company, Western Assurance Company, Ascentus Insurance Ltd., Canadian Northern Shield Insurance Company and RSA Travel Insurance Inc. (collectively, “RSA Canada”) and is part of a group of companies headed by RSA Insurance Group plc. RSA Canada employs more than 2,800 people across Canada and is one of the oldest insurance companies in the country with roots dating back to 1833. For more information, visit RSAgroup.ca.

About Food Banks Canada
Food Banks Canada provides national leadership to relieve hunger today and prevent hunger tomorrow in collaboration with the food bank network from coast-to-coast-to-coast. For 40 years, food banks have been dedicated to helping Canadians living with food insecurity.  Over 3,000 food banks and community agencies come together to serve our most vulnerable neighbours who – last year – made 1.1 million visits to these organizations in one month alone, according to our HungerCount report.  Over the past 10 years, as a system we’ve sourced and shared over 1.4 billion pounds of food and Food Banks Canada shared nearly $70 million in funding to help maximize collective impact and strengthen local capacity – while advocating for reducing the need for food banks.  Our vision is clear: create a Canada where no one goes hungry. Visit www.foodbankscanada.ca to learn more.

SOURCE RSA Canada

COVID-19 and business insurance

These are uncertain and challenging times. With COVID-19 causing global concern, we understand many Canadians will have questions related to commercial insurance. IBC has produced a brief Q&A document outlining how coverage is triggered and how business interruption policies work.

Updated: April 8, 2020

Commercial insurance is complex and specialized, which makes it important that you speak to your insurance representative if you have any questions or need clarification about your coverage.

Will my standard business policy or business interruption policy cover me for interruptions due to COVID-19?

  • Generally, commercial insurance policies and traditional business interruption policies do not offer coverage for business interruption or supply chain disruption due to a pandemic such as COVID-19.
  • Some organizations may have purchased specialized contingent business interruption coverage, stand-alone business interruption coverage and supply chain disruption coverage which may be triggered as a result of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic.
  • Commercial insurance is complex and specialized and specific to your business which makes it important that you speak to your insurance representative if you have any questions or need clarification about your coverage.

How does business insurance work?

Property insurance for businesses is designed to protect the physical assets of a business against loss and/or damage from a broad range of causes. There are two basic policy types:

  1. Named perils – covers only loss and/or damage caused by perils specifically listed in the policy, subject to exclusions. Loss and/or damage caused by any other peril is not covered.
  2. Comprehensive – covers loss and/or damage caused by any peril, unless specifically excluded.

What is business interruption (BI) coverage?

BI coverage is an add-on to an existing business insurance policy. In the event of a business temporarily needing to shut down, BI covers continuing expenses or replaces lost profits. There are three types of BI policies:

  1. Gross earnings policy, which pays only until property or damage is replaced or repaired, or stock is replaced
  2. Profits form policy, which continues to pay until a business resumes its normal, pre-interruption level (subject to policy limits)
  3. Extra expense policy, which is designed for businesses that can remain operational during periods affected by loss and/or damage.

How does BI insurance work?

BI policies are not standardized and include many variants, but most contain language indicating that the insurer will pay for the actual loss of “business income” due to the “necessary suspension” of operations during “the period of restoration.” A number of concepts and nuances come into play, including:

  • Physical damage requirement: Most policies require proof that the insured premises sustained physical damage (for example, from fire, heat, flooding or firefighting efforts) that was covered under their property policy, which caused an interruption that resulted in a loss of business income. A business that is interrupted due to the loss of data or a loss of utilities may not have sustained a physical loss. (There is separate utility loss coverage.)
  • Period of restoration: If BI coverage is triggered, a significant issue is defining the period of indemnity or, as some policies refer to it, the period of restoration. Most policies will pay business income loss through to the point that the business is restored or when the coverage expires (usually 12 months from the beginning of the interruption).

Consumer Relief Measures

To help Canadians cope with the financial impact of COVID-19, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) member companies are offering substantial consumer relief measures. For consumers whose driving habits have changed significantly, IBC member companies are offering reductions in auto insurance premiums to reflect this reduced risk. IBC expects this could result in $600 million in savings to consumers. The reductions will continue for the next 90 days. Additionally, insurers have supported Canadians and businesses who are most adversely affected by honouring requests to defer premiums. Thousands of Canadians have had their premiums deferred.

Insurance customers whose driving habits have changed significantly or who are facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic should contact their insurance representative. As it relates to savings on auto insurance premiums, savings will vary depending on individual driving habits.

Many insurers have transitioned their employees to work from home, and insurers ask for your patience as service levels may be strained.

In addition to adjusting premiums for drivers, IBC member companies have also committed to the following measures to help Canadians, which will also apply for the next 90 days:

  • Explore flexible payment options for consumers who are in a vulnerable position or facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19;
  • Waive the NSF fees they would have charged if you have insufficient funds to cover your premium. You remain responsible for any fees your bank may charge you; and
  • If you are temporarily using your car or home differently (for example, you may be using your car to commute to work instead of taking public transit, or you may be working from home) it will not affect your premium or your ability to make a claim.

Insurers are also working with small business and commercial clients to help businesses manage their costs.

Insurers are supporting communities across the country, and some have made substantial donations to help those impacted.

www.ibc.ca

Robbers escape by air after stealing gold bars from Canadian mine in Mexico

TORONTO _ Canadian mining firm Alamos Gold Inc. reports that a group of armed robbers intercepted gold dore bars on the runway at its Mulatos mine site in Mexico, then staged a dramatic escape in a separate light aircraft.

In a statement in Spanish, Alamos’s Mexican subsidiary Minas de Oro Nacional says five heavily armed people subdued security guards who were loading the bars for transport on a plane on Wednesday morning.

At the same time, it says, a light plane, described as a “Cessna-206 type,” landed, and within 10 minutes the aircraft, the armed group and the bars were airborne and headed towards the mountains.

Alamos spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson says no one was hurt in the dramatic robbery, adding another mine, owned by Mineria Penmont, a subsidiary of Fresnillo, was robbed a few weeks ago.

She says the Mulatos loss is covered by insurance.

In a report, National Bank analyst Mike Parkin says 2,600 ounces of dore bars, an alloy of gold and silver, were taken, but Thompson could not confirm that figure.

‘Always new expenses:’ Lawsuits filed as anniversary of Broncos bus crash nears

By Stephanie Taylor and Bill Graveland

THE CANADIAN PRESS

It’s been almost two years since the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan and with the solemn anniversary comes a closing legal window that has seen several lawsuits filed in court.

Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured after a transport truck barrelled through a stop sign and into the path of the bus carrying the junior hockey team on April 6, 2018.

The inexperienced driver of the truck, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed Friday in Regina Court of Queen’s Bench against Sidhu and his former employer. It also lists the governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as the federal government.

“The people wanting to go forward aren’t motivated financially so much as these were wrongs by governments,” said lawyer Tony Merchant. He pointed to the trucking industry as a major concern.

Carol and Lyle Brons are listed as the plaintiffs. Their 24-year-old daughter, Dayna, was the team’s athletic therapist and was killed in the crash.

Also listed are all the others who were on the bus, their families, all hockey team staff, billet families and first responders who treated the victims.

At least one family has said it has asked to be removed from the class action, which still needs to be certified by the courts.

Several other lawsuits have also been filed.

Russ and Raelene Herold of Montmartre, Sask., were among the first of the families to file a few months after the collision. They are suing the truck driver, the Calgary-based company that employed him and the bus manufacturer. The lawsuit asks for damages and a court order that all buses carrying sports teams in Saskatchewan be equipped with seatbelts.

The couple’s son, 16-year-old Adam, was the youngest player on the team to be killed.

Their suit has since been joined by the families of three players and an assistant coach who died: Jaxon Joseph, 20, of St. Albert, Alta.; Logan Hunter, 18, also of St. Albert; Jacob Leicht, 19, of Humboldt; and Mark Cross, 27, from Strasbourg, Sask.

No statement of defence has been filed in that lawsuit.

Injured Broncos player Derek Patter, 21, of Edmonton, filed in March against the truck driver and the trucking company. The Alberta government joined as a plaintiff to recoup health-care costs.

Kevin Matechuk of Colonsay, Sask., said his family would also be filing a lawsuit against the trucker and trucking company on behalf of his son Layne, 20, who is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

“He will need special care. We don’t know if he will ever be able to live on his own. We’re hoping so. It’s still our hope and dream.”

It’s the same situation for Ryan Straschnitzki, 20, of Airdrie, Alta., who was paralyzed from the chest down. His suit also takes on the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments, as well as the team’s bus driver.

“There’s always new expenses and he’s going to have to be taken care of for the rest of his life,” said his mother, Michelle Straschnitzki.

“We won’t always be here. And people don’t understand … long-term care for people who are in wheelchairs _ the cost is astronomical.”

The Straschnitzkis said they’ve received hateful comments and death threats since their lawsuit was reported in the news last week.

“Ryan never got millions from the GoFundMe like a bunch of these dummies are saying,” said his father Tom Straschnitzki.

A GoFundMe campaign, which raised more than $15 million, paid out $525,000 to each of the families who lost a loved one and $475,000 to each injured player.

Some families have said they plan to give away through charities some of the money they received from donations.

“It’s not our plan to sue,” said Toby Boulet, whose 21-year-old son, Logan, was killed.

The Lethbridge family has used money received to set up a fund for causes that were important to their son, including organ donation.

The Adam Herold Legacy Foundation is a charity that gives Saskatchewan youth a chance to develop their hockey skills and leadership potential.

Others, including Evan Thomas’s family of Saskatoon, have given back through memorial scholarships and other donations.

Evan’s father, Scott Thomas, said the family decided against legal action.

“We just don’t feel its part of something we want to be a part of,” he said.

Thomas said it might have been different if his son had lived.  “I know a lot of people think insurance is going to take care of them, but it’s not.”

At least one injured player doesn’t want anything to do with a lawsuit.

Myles Shumlanski of Tisdale, Sask., said his 22-year-old son Nick just “wants to move on.” He was the only one on the bus able who walked away without serious injuries.

“We’re going to put in for a little bit of insurance,” said his father.

“He doesn’t even feel comfortable doing that.”

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