Insurance bureau has advice for residents who blame wind for flood damage

Industry group says adjusters evaluate ‘circumstances of the entire event’

Jordan Gill · CBC News

Private insurance companies in New Brunswick are urging people who suffered property damage during spring flooding to contact their agents directly to discuss their individual policies and whether wind damage is covered.

This comes after retired insurance agent Mac Burns launched a campaign to help people who have had their claims turned down because they don’t have flood coverage, even though in many cases the damage didn’t happen until powerful winds came up the first weekend in May.

Burns said that since the “But For The Wind” campaign began, he has been contacted by 23 people whose claims have been denied by insurance companies.

Erin Norwood, the Atlantic manager of government relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said people may not have “correct information.”

“When a claim is presented for loss or damage … the circumstances of the entire event are analyzed against the coverage terms and conditions,” she said.

Insurance ombudsman can help

Richard and Judy Ingram say their insurance adjuster attributes the damage in their cottage to the flood, although wind was the prime culprit. (CBC)

Richard and Judy Ingram said their insurance adjuster told them the damage to their cottage likely wouldn’t be covered because they didn’t have flood insurance.

But the Ingrams say the damage was actually caused by the wind, which their policy does cover.

Norwood said all factors that contributed to the damage will be taken into consideration by insurance companies.

Some retired insurance agents have banded together to form a task force to help get information to people who suffered wind damage on May 5 during the spring flood. The Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Erin Norwood is the Atlantic Manager of Government Relations, she says every policy is different and people need to check with their broker to get the correct information. 11:46

“Loss or damage from a single occurrence with multiple causes, such as this case, are adjusted and settled as one event. A policyholder doesn’t need to submit a water claim and then a distinct wind claim for the same occurrence.”

Norwood said if cottage owners have a complaint about an insurance adjuster’s findings, each company has an in-house ombudsman who can help.

“It is available, it’s there to be used, and if you do have concerns that’s where you should be sending them,” she said.

Urged to call insurance agents

Norwood said the best people to answer questions about a cottage owner’s insurance policy are at the company that provided the insurance since there’s no standard in the industry as to what’s covered.

“Every policy is worded differently, ” she said.

“The insurance industry is a very competitive market, so products offered by companies differ to meet different consumer … needs.”

Norwood said the Insurance Bureau of Canada also has staff who can answer questions.

Just as cottage owners have been denied help under their insurance policies, they have received only limited assistance from the province.

Cottage owners can apply for flood recovery assistance up to $6,100, but only for cleaning up debris outside their cottages, not for cleaning anything touched by floodwaters inside their cottages.

About 10,000 homes were in N.B. flood areas, but damage still unclear:minister

FREDERICTON _ New Brunswick’s environment minister has given a new sense of scale to the province’s record-setting floods, saying as many as 10,000 homes and businesses were within flood zones.

Andrew Harvey said Thursday that precise figures have yet to come in on the extent of the damage those structures suffered, as citizens are still filing their claims for disaster relief.

“There have been close to 10,000 for residential or commercial properties that could be affected,” he said during a news conference.

“Some of these numbers are moving as we get new information as to how many actual applications we have for disaster financial assistance.”

The minister said the figure was based on Service New Brunswick’s property identification numbers located within the flooded areas.

Provincial officials also said that as of Thursday morning, there were 2,200 people who had registered for the disaster relief program, which covers some of the uninsurable damages in an effort to get homeowners back on their feet.

Meanwhile, the province has estimated there are also about 2,000 recreational properties that have suffered damage.

The rivers swollen by heavy rains and snow melt  swamped homes throughout the region and caused some cottages to collapse, with some even floating off their foundations.

Harvey also told reporters the province will have to consider changing the rules governing what can be built in the flood plains of the Saint John River and other waterways.

The province had announced that it will require property owners to start considering flood mitigation measures before they’re given a permit to rebuild or renovate in areas within 30 metres of the water.

However, Harvey conceded that this is merely a starting point, as wider changes to municipal bylaws and zoning rules have to be considered in the wake of the second major flood in a decade in his province.

“As time goes on those are decisions that are going to have to be made about zoning and about where people are building,” he said.

“These are some tough decisions that will have to be made … and we as a government at some point in the future will have to look at the issue about zoning.”

Craig Stewart, vice president of federal affairs for Insurance Bureau of Canada, said in an interview that there is no time to lose in getting fresh rules in place  and suggests modeling them on zoning created in High River, Alta., which suffered devastating river flooding in 2013.

“This should have been done yesterday,” he said.

“Given lessons learned from flood events over the past few years, absolute priority should be given to changing zoning laws so that we stop putting people in harm’s way.”

After the 2013 floods, High River brought in bylaws that turned the highest risk areas into parkland and prohibited rebuilding in those areas.

Harvey said he’s hoping the most recent events are heightening awareness that flooding isn’t going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“I mean hopefully the message to the people of New Brunswick today is, these are not one in every 100 years. These are 2008 and in 2018, who knows when the next flood could be? Nobody knows,” he said.

Harvey said one bright spot was the announcement on Thursday that the government of Nova Scotia would be making a $100,000 donation to the Canadian Red Cross to help residents.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced the funding, saying the province wants to “support our neighbours in their time of need.”

McNeil said about six provincial staff have also been sent to assist in the flood’s aftermath, to help process claims and inspect highway infrastructure.

McNeil said the help isn’t unusual.

Significant flooding hits British Columbia: IBC issues tips to help consumers

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is encouraging residents affected by flooding in British Columbia to call their insurance representatives immediately if they have damage to report.

Flooding has already had a significant impact on many communities across the province, and particularly in the southern Interior. With Environment Canada predicting warm weather and heavy rainfall over the weekend, expanded flood warnings are expected.

“We have seen the devastating effects that flooding can have on communities,” said Aaron Sutherland, Vice-President, Pacific, IBC. “Higher than normal temperatures, rapid snowmelt and heavy rain are adding to the problem. IBC is reiterating the need for everyone to be on alert and to stay safe. We want to help make sure British Columbia residents are prepared and ready to deal with the potential damages.”

While most standard home insurance policies do not cover damage due to overland flooding, many Canadian insurers now offer residential overland flood insurance as an optional add-on to help policyholders reduce the financial risk associated with a flood. It is important for consumers to understand their insurance policies and know what is covered. If damage occurs, consumers should contact their insurance representatives. IBC is also here to help policyholders if they have insurance-related questions.

“IBC’s Consumer Information Centre is available to answer any insurance-related questions that affected individuals might have. Contact us at 1-844-2ask-IBC. We’re here to help,” added Sutherland.

If you have a claim, this is how to start the claims process:

  • When safe to do so, assess and document damage.
  • Call your insurance representative and/or company to report damage or losses.
  • Be as detailed as possible when providing information.
  • Water damage to vehicles is usually covered under comprehensive or all-perils auto insurance policies. Contact your insurance representative for details.
  • If you need help getting in touch with your insurer, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC (1-844-227-5422).

Help protect your property from water damage:

  • Store valuable items on upper floors of your home, not in the basement.
  • Have large appliances, furnaces, hot water heaters and electrical panels raised up on wood or cement blocks. If this isn’t possible, consider anchoring these items and protecting them with a floodwall or shield.
  • If flooding is imminent, shut off electricity to areas of the home that may be affected. Use sand bags or install flood shields or built-up barriers for basement windows and doors.
  • Create an emergency preparedness plan with your family.
  • Assemble an emergency supply kit.
  • Prepare a detailed home inventory.
  • Pay attention to local authorities and monitor weather developments regularly.
  • Avoid roads that are covered by water.

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.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow IBC on Twitter @IBC_West 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.

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

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

Displaced by flood, couple hopeful new insurance will cover extensive damage

The Evanses first sought flood insurance in 2008

Rachel Cave · CBC News

A retired couple in Grand Bay-Westfield is hoping a new home insurance product they purchased ahead of this year’s flood will make their recovery easier.

Jim and Betty Evans started asking about flood insurance after the St. John River crept up to their doorsill in 2008.

It wasn’t available then.

The Evanses picked through the flood damage Monday to see what can be salvaged. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

But a few years ago, some companies started offering overland water coverage, available to homeowners who qualified and at an additional price.

“Because we’d been through this before, we thought we’d better have it,” said Betty, 78.

The Evanses have been racking up expenses since floodwater closed Riverside Park, the street where they’ve lived for 25 years.

Jim and Betty Evans, who have lived in their Grand Bay-Westfield riverside home for 25 years, say this year’s flood was the highest they’ve seen by far. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

On Monday, they had no power, no running water and were staying at a hotel.

They’re hoping their bills will be reimbursed, but they say they’re not entirely sure what their policy covers.

“We’re a little foggy on how extensive it is,” said Jim.

No industry standard

The Insurance Bureau of Canada said only 10 to 20 per cent of insurance companies provide any form of flooding insurance.

They can set their own prices and their own terms, said Marlene Landry, IBC’s Atlantic manager of consumer and industry relations.

“What each company will sell, how they’ll sell it and what the product contains is all different,” said Landry.

“There is no industry standard.”

The Evans’s water pump will be need to be replaced. It’s among many fixtures and appliance lost to the flood.(Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Landry said insurance companies keep years of information on claims and they know their risk zones.

That’s why the location of your house will affect what you pay and whether you can purchase flooding protection at all.

“Yes, there’s going to be cases, many cases possibly, where you couldn’t purchase overland flooding because of where you live,” she said.

Betty Evans clears water-damaged items from her home in Grand Bay-Westfield. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

IBC said insurance companies have not yet reported on how many New Brunswickers have opted into the coverage since it was introduced in 2015.

As for how much claims will cost from the flood of 2018, Landry said that information may not be available for some time.

“As far as when the information will be available to us as to how much this cost as an industry, I’m going to hazard to say maybe a year or more.”

 

Waters rising in flood ravaged southern B.C. as residents brace for ’round two’

GRAND FORKS, B.C. _ There is a feeling of “calm apprehension” in the southern British Columbia city of Grand Forks as officials warn of a coming second wave of flood waters, says Brett Swope.

The pastor at the Grand Forks Baptist Church said he noticed the flood waters returned on Tuesday when he drove down a local road covered in 15 centimetres of water. It had been dry on Monday, he said in an interview as he travelled around assessing the flood situation.

The residents of Grand Forks were unsure what water levels to expect in the coming days, Swope said.

“Some forecasts are calling for it to be higher, others are calling for it to be just lower than we had recently, but everybody’s just sort of bracing for the impact and trying to do everything they can to be prepared,” he said.

At least 1,500 homes in the Kootenay Boundary regional district, which includes Grand Forks, remained evacuated Tuesday following flooding over the last several days. Provincial officials say evacuation orders covered another 500 homes around the province, while more than 2,600 homes were on evacuation alert.

Swope said he’s been amazed at the community’s tireless labour.

“When I think of the sense of how our community is feeling, I think that they’re, you know, kind of approaching everything with a calm apprehension.”

He said “hundreds upon hundreds” of volunteers have prepared tens of thousands of sandbags in advance of potential flooding this week and residents are working from sun up to sun down.

Jessica Mace of the Kettle River Watershed Authority said temperatures higher than 30 C and exhausting work is wearing on the thousand plus volunteers in Grand Forks.

“People have been working really long hours,” said Mace, “they’re so thirsty and tired and worn out.”

Heavy rains and spring runoff combined to push floodwaters to levels not seen in 70 years in and around Grand Forks last week.

Gordy Shaw moved to Grand Forks with his wife eight years ago from Richmond because he said he was worried about dykes bursting in the Metro Vancouver city.

“I worked all the sawmills along the Fraser River, and I never anticipated this little Kettle River (in Grand Forks) would ever flow like it did today.”

Shaw said he had about 30 centimetres of water seep into his garage and learned over coffee with his neighbours on Tuesday that he was lucky compared with the damage experienced by others.

“They just talked to their insurance company, and the insurance company just said ‘No, I’m sorry sir, it’s overland flooding and you have no insurance,’ ‘” said Shaw.

Chris Marsh of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary said water levels were rising again along the Granby and Kettle rivers, which meet in Grand Forks.

“The forecast from the River Forecast Centre is for levels that are possibly equivalent to or higher than the peaks we saw last year, which are record peaks,” added Marsh.

Emergency Management BC said the Boundary region and Similkameen Valley have already seen significant flooding, while risks are also high across the Okanagan and Shuswap regions.

Officials from the regional district said the rapid snowmelt is pushing river levels higher and there was a forecast of rain for the region by Wednesday.

An evacuation alert was also issued Tuesday by the township of Langley for part of Glen Valley, as well as Brae and McMillan islands, after the Fraser River was measured at 5.5 metres in Mission, about 70 kilometres east of Vancouver.

It was the first evacuation alert of the 2018 flood season for any community near Metro Vancouver.

By Spencer Harwood in Vancouver

IBC aims to help CDN homeowners better understand the risk of flooding

 Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) today kicked-off a new consumer flood education campaign that will take place this spring and summer in communities in British ColumbiaAlberta and Ontario. IBC “Flood Factor” interactive booths aim to raise awareness of flood risks and educate homeowners on how they can protect their property from flood damage and prepare themselves for emergencies.

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A recent public opinion poll conducted by IBC found that almost 45% of Canadian homeowners with a ground-level home think they have flood insurance as part of their regular home insurance policy, and 26% don’t know if they have it or not. At the same time, only 37% admit feeling confident in their level of knowledge about what is covered and what is not in their home insurance policies.

“The fact is that most Canadians are not financially protected against flooding, and they may not realize it,” says Craig Stewart, Vice-President, Federal Affairs, IBC. “Climate change is not a future threat – it’s happening now. Over the past three decades we have seen an increase in insured damages, and it is up to all of us – the insurance industry, governments and citizens – to do our part in responding to the effects of climate change.”

The insurance industry and governments have a role to play in educating citizens about the risks associated with floods, and the industry will continue to invest in consumer education such as the Flood Factor interactive displays to show Canadians the steps they can take to protect themselves. At the booths, consumers will see interactive maps that provide a view of residential flood risk, as well as learn how to mitigate that risk. People can also visit http://www.floodfactor.ca/ to test out their knowledge of floods for a chance to win instant prizes.

“Adapting to the impacts of climate change takes a whole-of-society approach,” says Stewart. “It is imperative that we raise Canadians’ awareness of the escalating climate-change risks that we all face. Floods in Canada will continue to happen, and only together can we build a resilient country.”

Key findings of IBC’s public opinion research include:

  • Canadian homeowners think they have flood coverage but are not confident in their policy knowledge.
    • Almost 45% believe they have flood insurance coverage
    • 29% say they do not have coverage and 26% don’t know if they have coverage.
  • Canadian homeowners have taken some action to protect their homes from flooding.
    • 56% have cleared leaves from eavestroughs and other areas around the house
    • 44% have ensured proper lot grading so that water drains away from the home
    • 40% have ensured downspouts extend at least 6 feet from the basement wall
    • 35% have checked sidewalks, patios and driveways to ensure they have not settled and caused water to drain toward the house
    • 27% have checked window water wells to ensure there is no accumulated water
    • 23% have created an inventory of the home’s contents, including all valuables
    • 22% have installed backflow valves for drains, toilets and basement sewer connections
    • 22% have informed themselves and household members on how to shut off electricity to areas that might be affected by flooding.
  • Canadian homeowners don’t feel the threat of flooding.
    • 53% say they are not planning to take any action to protect their homes from flooding in the next several months
    • Only 11% have a disaster safety kit in their homes, and 42% of those who do not already have one say they are not willing to assemble one in the near future.
  • Insurers have a role to play in education.
    • The most trusted source for information on how to reduce the risk of flood in the home is a science or flood expert (61% trust this source)
    • Insurance companies are the second-most-trusted source of information (54%).

About the Research
IBC commissioned Navigator Ltd. to conduct a nationwide online study of 1,200 Canadian residents 18 years of age or older between February 5 and February 23, 2018. The margin of error for a strict probability sample for a sample of this size would be ±2.83%, 19 times out of 20. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to, sampling error, coverage error and measurement error.

Additional Resources

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 $52 billion.

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

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

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

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