Excerpted article was written by MICHELE JARVIE, CALGARY HERALD
Status of homes
Preliminary re-entry planning is underway, including preparing for co-ordinated damage assessments and ensuring vital emergency services and utilities are back online and operating safely. It’s important to note that there is no date for re-entry yet and Premier Rachel Notley is warning residents it could be some time before anyone is allowed to return.
SAIT and Ambrose University College reception centres are full. Evacuees arriving in Calgary should register at Mount Royal University west residence building or at the University of Calgary dining centre. Food, clothing, transit passes, toiletries, medical resources and counselling available on site. Cats and dogs can be accommodated.
Airbnb is connecting evacuees with people offering free accommodation. It is waiving its service fees for anyone checking in by May 21 and has set up a website to connect renters with listers. The City of Calgary, in conjunction with the Calgary Hotel Association, has compiled a list of hotels offering special rates to evacuees.
All evacuees should register with Red Cross — no matter where you are currently and even if you’ve already registered with an evacuation centre. Go online to RedCross.ca or call 1-888-350-6070. As of Monday, 36,831 households have registered with the Red Cross. Family members and evacuees trying to reunite can also contact the Red Cross.
Lost driver’s licences, birth certificates or ID cards can be reissued free of charge at any registry agent.
Since May 7, emergency responders have begun identifying and caring for pets that were left behind during the evacuation. Pets will be handled by trained animal handlers and will receive veterinary care. If your pet needs rescue, fill out the official online emergency pet rescue request to allow a field team to respond. Pet owners will be contacted by Alberta SPCA in the coming days.
The province plans to issue pre-loaded debit cards ($1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent) to people who have been displaced. Details on when this assistance will be available and how to access it will be announced by Wednesday. When details are available they will be posted and available through 310-4455.
Evacuees need to track their expenses and keep all their receipts for food purchases, accommodations, and other expenses and provide those receipts to their insurer. Call your insurance agency as soon as possible to alert them that you are an evacuee and what you’ll need to do once you determine the status of your home.
Insurance companies across Canada have already begun deploying mobile response units and flying in personnel to prepare to assess the damage. Some 16 insurance companies have established temporary claims offices at the Northlands evacuation centre in Edmonton, in Calgary and in Lac La Biche. Staff there have been opening claims files and issuing emergency cheques for evacuees, said Bill Adams, vice-president for the Western and Pacific region for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Adams says the companies are waiting for the government to let them enter the Fort McMurray area. At that point, he expects hundreds of insurance adjusters to converge on the city, as companies send teams with trucks and trailers of equipment to open field offices and begin processing claims. Adams said the insurance industry was considering using satellite and drone technology to help survey and map damaged areas to make the claims process go more quickly, although he couldn’t estimate how long it would take.
Borrowers with CMHC-insured mortgages that are affected by the fires may require special arrangements to meet their mortgage payment obligations. CMHC says its approved lenders can look at various options for clients such as deferred payments, re-amortization to result in lower payments or special payment arrangements. Homeowners should contact the nearest branch of their financial institution to discuss their specific situation.
Contact information and what many banks and financial institutions are doing is contained in a blog post.
The federal government is streamlining EI claims for affected workers. Those affected should apply immediately, online or in person, even without a record of employment. The federal government has set up a page with information for evacuees.
Displaced students from Fort McMurray and surrounding communities are encouraged to register with the local school division. Go here for more information. Provincial achievement tests have been cancelled for all students in Fort McMurray, Anzac and Fort McKay schools within Northland School Division, and École Boréal within Greater North Central Francophone Education Region (Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord). Any student evacuated who wants to take their PAT exam can do so in the school they have registered with. Alberta Education Minister David Eggen announced Monday that displaced students have the option to skip Grade 12 diploma exams.
To get a replacement Health Care Insurance Card at no cost, call 780-427-1432 or toll free at 310-0000 and then 780-427-1432 when prompted. It can be mailed to a temporary address.
If you have personal identification and a means to pay, visit any community pharmacy to have your prescriptions looked up online through Netcare. If you do not have identification, visit an evacuation centre. Medical staff or pharmacists will assess you.
Fort McMurray residents who are clients of various Alberta social programs should contact the various departments.
AHS has mental health staff at the evacuation/reception centres, including at SAIT, Ambrose College and the U of C. The Psychologists’ Association of Alberta is offering free services to victims and first responders traumatized by recent events. Call 403-246-8255 in Calgary or 1-888-424-0297 toll-free or call the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642.
Evacuees are invited to take time with family and friends with free regular admission to any of Alberta’s 17 provincially owned and operated historic sites and museums. Just present your photo ID or provide your postal code. The City of Calgary is offering free admission for evacuees at 11 aquatic centres, two leisure centres, the Calgary Zoo and Telus Spark “for the foreseeable future.”
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