Check that your home insurance covers flood damage

As the seventh anniversary of the Great Flood of 2013 approaches, the City of Calgary has issued a high water advisory for the Bow and Elbow Rivers.

“Due to higher expected flow rates and the current forecast, Calgarians are advised against boating and all other watercraft activities on the rivers during this time,” said the City in a statement. “We are expecting ongoing high flows for the next while, due to snowmelt, the ongoing presence of thunderstorms and a low-pressure system entering Alberta on the weekend.

“No flooding over riverbanks is expected, however, flows on the Bow and Elbow are currently fast, cold and murky, making conditions on and near the rivers dangerous.”

The advisory is a reminder to make sure your family is prepared for a flood, and foremost on your list is to ensure your home insurance covers flooding.

It is important to know the province of Alberta has flood-zone mapped locations showing different degrees of exposure. Flooding insurance companies may offer coverage only in low-risk areas. Check with your broker on this point.

Anne Marie Thomas of InsuranceHotline.com says flooding is only covered under home insurance if the policyholder purchased it.

“It is not part of the standard homeowner policy. Damage that results from overland water coming into your home through the roof, basement, doors and windows is covered, including damage done to your home’s exterior and interior. Loss of personal property to flooding and damages resulting from a sewer backup as a result of flooding would also be covered.”

If a flood warning is declared, take protective steps.

“Protect as much property as you can from further damage such as moving items from the basement to a higher floor or to another safe location. Contact your insurance broker or company for next steps,” says Thomas. “If a flood occurs and you, unfortunately, need to evacuate, when you are allowed to return, take photos of any and all damage to provide to your insurance company and for other relief programs the government may provide.”

If evacuated, additional living expenses, such as travel, food and hotels, should be covered under most homeowner and rental policies, if the primary cause of the loss was covered by the underlying policy.

“A flood could come at a time when we are all practicing physical distancing,” says Thomas. “Alberta had expected some crossover of the pandemic with floods and fires that can occur, and according to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, the province has made preparations to ensure that evacuation centres have processes in place for physical distancing and sanitation.”

The government of Canada has a list of things to follow after a flood at: www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/flds-ftr-eng.aspx .

Source: Saltwire Newtwork

 

Yes, we’re getting more extreme rainfall, and it’s due to climate change, study confirms

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Fort McMurray homeowners clean up as insurance questions linger after flooding

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – Cora Dion’s voice echoes as she films a video showing what’s left in the basement of her home in downtown Fort McMurray after several days of flood cleanup.

The couch and chair are in the garbage. The beige carpet has been ripped up. The teal-painted drywall and wood panelling has been pulled off the walls.

“Everything’s gone,” says Dion as she walks through the empty basement, which has been stripped to the concrete.  “We’ve taken so many loads to the dump. It’s insane.”

Dion is one of about 13,000 residents forced to flee the northern Alberta city in late April when ice jams caused the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers to overflow their banks and cause major flooding.

It’s the second time in the last four years that Dion and her family had to leave their home for a natural disaster. The first time was because of a destructive wildfire that caused the evacuation of the entire city.

The Dions didn’t have damage after the fire, but this time they returned home to a flooded basement and no power.

“It was like an apocalypse,” Dion said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Everything we owned in the basement _ there was nothing to be saved.”

Dion, her husband and their two dogs, cat and a chinchilla can’t stay in their home until it’s safe. They don’t expect their insurance policy will cover the damage.

The Dions aren’t the only ones who can’t go home _ more than 3,000 people remain displaced.

Don Scott, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, said many of those homeowners either don’t have insurance or won’t have enough insurance.

“There is a huge issue in this region,” he said.

Scott estimated there’s at least $100 million in damage. He’s asked senior levels of government to help residents with a disaster recovery program.

On Friday, the Alberta government stepped up.

“We will be providing communities … $147 million to help families, businesses and communities to recover and rebuild,” said Premier Jason Kenney.

The money isn’t meant to replace insurance.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada said the flood was devastating for residents in northern Alberta.

“Overland flood insurance is relatively new in Canada,” explained Celyeste Power, the bureau’s vice-president for Western Canada. “Insurers came out with products over the last five years.”

She said 13 insurers offer overland flood coverage in Alberta, but it’s an add-on to policies.

“Half of Albertans have actually opted in,” said Power.

The option, she said, is further complicated for those who live on flood plains or in high-risk areas.

“Flood insurance there is usually much more limited or restricted because the likelihood of flood is so much higher,” she said. “The policy would be unaffordable.”

Power said a flood plain was affected in Fort McMurray so that would explain why there are so many people without insurance _ a different situation than after the fire when many homeowners had insurance.

Therese Greenwood and her husband lost their home in the fire and rebuilt it, but she said they sold the new house and moved into a rented townhouse near the Clearwater River.

They were told to leave when the flood hit. This time they felt more prepared.

“We actually had an emergency kit packed … and we spent a bit of time moving things up from the basement,” said Greenwood.

In 2016, they had 15 minutes to get out as the fire threatened the edge of their neighbourhood.

“We took one carton of yogurt and a can of club soda _ and that’s all we had to eat for about 15 hours _ so this time we made sure to take some food,” she said. “We charged up the cellphone … all the things that we didn’t think to do the first time.”

They returned after the fire to nothing.

“It looked like a moonscape. Even the barbecue burned to ash. The temperature must have been as hot as it could be.”

In the flood, they lost what was in the basement _ other than one box of Christmas decorations.

“We’re calling it our Christmas miracle,” she laughed.

Greenwood said they have to meet with their insurance agent to determine what’s next, but she noted they won’t make any major decisions until they can go home in a few months.

“At the moment, I am thinking of moving off the flood plain.”

Although she knows the flood was harder on some people, she doesn’t think it was as bad as the fire.

For Dion, the high water triggered difficult memories of the fire.

“It was actually pretty close to the anniversary,” she said. “It was very, very stressful, but at the same time we had a plan (for the flood), so that was good.”

That wasn’t the case in 2016.

Dion, whose daughters were 15 at the time, had to flee the city with her twins, four horses, three dogs and a cat. She only had a two-horse trailer so her daughters rode two of the horses on the busy highway until a kind stranger with a trailer offered to help.

“This time, I was (thinking) maybe the house won’t be fine, but we’re all fine,” she said. “I was actually afraid for my life with the fire.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2020

Document everything, insurance lawyer urges Albertans returning to flooded homes

Document everything, insurance lawyer urges Albertans returning to flooded homes

‘Take lots of photos, don’t take a denial at face value, make notes’

The excerpted article was written by CBC News 

As Northern Alberta residents discover the extent of flooding damage to their homes and businesses, a Fort McMurray lawyer offers a few practical tips that could pay off later in dealings with insurance companies.

Take photos. Make lists. Understand your policy. And don’t give up if your claim is initially denied.

“They’ve just been back to the property for the last day or two and the news is pretty heartbreaking,” said Christine Burton, a Fort McMurray lawyer who has worked through insurance issues with numerous residents in recent years.

“People are dealing with the shock and impact of cleaning up,” Burton told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM on Tuesday. “We’re telling people, ‘Please, take lots of photos, don’t take a denial at face value, make notes. Stay safe.'”

More than 14,000 people were evacuated as a result of recent river flooding in and around Fort McMurray, as well as along the Peace River.

As people progress from clean-up to rebuild, it is critical that they understand their insurance policies, even if it means hiring a lawyer to work through “subtle” policy language, said Burton.

Most policies won’t include coverage for overland flooding, when water flows over dry land before entering a property through doors or windows.

“It’s often a special endorsement you can buy. It’s very often expensive,” Burton said. The cost depends on the flood risk in the area where you live.

However, property owners whose policy includes a special endorsement for sewer backup may be able to get some money from their insurance companies.

“Take photos of your basements, the drains, the sump pump. Make notes of everything that’s happening, make lists of everything that you’ve lost.

“Fort McMurray has become a little bit of an expert, unfortunately, at insurance claims through fire —  and we’re still dealing with some of those claims,” Burton said. “Don’t take a denial at face value. You can challenge this. Understand your policy.”

Don Scott, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, has said he expects residential damages from the flooding in Fort McMurray could top $100 million.

In a statement, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said overland and sewer backup coverage are the key parts of a policy that pertain to flooding events but both of these are optional and must be added to home insurance policies.

Properties in high-flood areas may not be offered the coverage, the statement said.

“If a home has flood damage from this event but did not purchase the optional overland flood insurance or it was not available as the area is high-risk for flood, the policy would not cover the damages,” Celyeste Power, vice-president for the insurance bureau’s western region, said in the statement.

Property owners not covered by insurance may be able to access provincial disaster relief funding. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has said the provincial disaster relief program will likely be triggered for Wood Buffalo flooding.

Under that program, the government would provide some financial support for recovery costs for critical public infrastructure and non-insured private infrastructure.

Between 2009 and 2019, insurers paid out an average $1.9 billion per year on catastrophic flooding claims, compared with an average $422 million annually in the period from 1983 until 2008, according to Insurance Bureau data.

More than $2 billion in insured losses resulted from the June 2013 flooding event in southern Alberta, which caused $6 billion in damages and displaced 100,000 people.

CBC News

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.

Insurance Bureau of Canada on Spring Flooding

With warmer weather arriving, snowmelt coupled with spring storms once again increase the risk of spring flooding across Canada. Provincial Emergency Management authorities have predicted certain communities across the country will likely experience flooding and Canadians should be prepared.

Municipalities are already taking action to reduce the local impacts of flooding and Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is informing consumers about how they can prepare for the coming flood season and help protect themselves and their property from damage.

During a severe weather event, everyone’s priority must be their personal safety and the safety of loved ones and neighbours. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, emergency responders may have reduced resources. As such, this places greater emphasis on individual preparation.

A number of Canadian insurers now offer residential overland flood insurance, which, along with sewer backup coverage, helps reduce the financial risk of inland flooding events. These products are optional and must be added to home insurance policies for an additional premium.

Contact your insurance representative to ensure your property is protected. Insurance representatives are an essential service at this time and although they may not be available in person, they can still respond to your insurance coverage questions , as well as assist with any claims.

Tips to protect your home from water damage:

  • Keep a current and detailed home inventory.
  • Assemble a disaster safety kit.
  • Create a 72-hour emergency preparedness plan for your family.
  • Visit IBC website for more tips: Water Damage – Are you Protected?

Even while all levels of government are coping with the pandemic, we still face the same risks from extreme weather, especially flooding, that come every spring. Canada still needs a National Action Plan on Flooding as committed to by the present federal administration.

Components of a National Action Plan on Flooding include investing in resilient infrastructure to protect communities from floods and wildfires, improved flood mapping, measures to re locate  those at highest risk out of harm’s way, and the availability of affordable overland flood insurance to remaining Canadians at high risk of flooding.

IBC continues to advocate for all stakeholders to work together to reduce the financial strain caused by flood events. For every dollar paid out in insurance claims for damaged homes and businesses, Canadian governments and their taxpayers pay out much more to repair public infrastructure damaged by severe weather.

Visit IBC’s website for information on how to prepare for a disaster and ways to prevent flood damage to your home.

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 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 126,000 Canadians, pays $9 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $54.7 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

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