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Canada isn’t doing enough to prepare for catastrophic events

Canada often ranks high on many “most beautiful countries in the world lists.” In fact, the community recently ranked Canada as the fifth most beautiful country in the world. Our breath is easily and often taken away by our country’s raw, natural beauty because millions of Canadians live in such close proximity to it. But we can’t allow ourselves to become too distracted; with all the amazing landscapes in our literal backyards comes a certain amount of risk from natural perils like wildfires, floods and stormy weather.

As much as Wildland Urban Interphase (WUI) sounds like the title of a video game, it actually isn’t. FireSmart Canada describes WUI as “the line, area, or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels.” The term/concept was coined in US Forest Management during the late eighties, and although you may not be familiar with WUI, chances are good you are living within it. Sixty percent of all cities, towns, settlements, and reservations across Canada have a significant proportion of WUI. One only needs to ask the townspeople of Fort McMurray about the impact of WUI; the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire was Canada’s most expensive insured natural catastrophe on record, which cost almost $4 billion.

Large scale catastrophes come in many forms, and unfortunately for our neighbours to the east in Alberta, they’ve had their share: enduring six of the ten most costly insured disasters on record in Canada. Beyond wildfires, hail storms, floods and earthquakes, catastrophes also include acts of terrorism, riots and civil commotion: all events that most people don’t think will ever happen to them, and would probably find themselves completely unprepared if they ever did. Which is an intriguing thought considering so many natural and manmade disasters happen every year. So intriguing of a thought that educators at the Wharton School of Business wrote a book about it.

As per the book description, The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters examines why some of us fail to evacuate when advised to do so, why we rebuild on flood plains, why some of us don’t wear protective gear like helmets, and why we generally ignore warnings that would protect ourselves and our communities, despite having the latest technology, information and statistics at our fingertips. The authors delve into the psychology of our decision making that comes into play when confronted with high-consequence, low-probability events. Fortunately, there are several Canadian organizations, including Reliance Insurance, that take their duty of care very seriously when it comes to helping homeowners and business owners to understand and better prepare for catastrophic risk.

Canadian Underwriters
Source: Canadian Underwriters

The Intact Centre on Climate Change

The Intact Centre on Climate Adaption offers comprehensive home flood protection resources including:

  • Assessing risks for basement flooding
  • Three types of flood protection do-it-yourself checklists,
  • A detailed list of water-resistant building materials,
  • How-to instructional videos, flood emergency preparedness, reducing mould risk, etc.

The Intact Centre also created an Infrastructure Adaptation Program that focuses on flood resilient commercial real estate, and both flood and wildfire resilient communities. Free, downloadable PDF reports are available under each of those headings filled with practical solutions that will enhance flood resilience in existing office towers and best practices for designing new, flood-resilient residential communities.

Homeowners can and should get started right now with the Home Flood Protection Check-Up. Created by the Intact Centre and the University of Waterloo, the online check-up is a convenient way for homeowners and property managers to assess the:

  • Actions you’ve already taken that may qualify for insurance discounts
  • Additional actions you can take that may qualify for municipal subsidies and insurance discounts

FireSmart Canada

The above mentioned FireSmart Canada’s mission is to help reduce the risk of wildfires in populated areas via education and resourceful partnerships with over 100 other Canadian organizations. For anyone owning/building a home or place of business,

  • Breaks down the components of construction in terms of what materials are more vulnerable to fire than others and suggests more fire resilient options/upgrades.
  • Tnstructs homeowners on fire-resistant yard design/maintenance and landscaping techniques.
  • Offers the FireSmart 101 e-course online and the FireSmart Begins at Home downloadable App.

The FireSmart app is an excellent risk management tool because it “engages homeowners in voluntary wildfire mitigation activities through a self-conducted home assessment to help identify specific actions to reduce wildfire risk.”

Protecting your assets and investments

Risk management isn’t just for big corporations. Both FireSmart Canada and the Intact Centre for Climate Adaption are offering a wealth of free, risk management tools and information available to any Canadian homeowner. Every homeowner and small business owner that chooses to mitigate risks are becoming a positive part of the solution to climate change adaptation as opposed to contributing to the problem. Taking the necessary steps to reduce risk can also pay off in the form of rebates, discounts, and subsidies. This is where your Reliance Insurance expert can assist with the coverage portion of your risk management strategy.

It’s critical for homeowners to not be uninsured or under-insured in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Many Canadians are under the impression that the government will cover damages for catastrophic events. But that’s not the case. According to BC Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA), “Insurable damages in the private sector from wildfires, earthquakes, snow load, wind storms, sewer or sump pit back-up, water entry from above ground (including roofs, windows or other areas of the building), are NOT eligible for DFA.”

You want your home and business insurance coverage to be just right. The benefit of consulting with a Reliance Insurance expert is they will customize your insurance policy with available policy extensions and optional coverages so you are not buying more coverage than you need. They will determine if you need extra coverage for perils such as earthquake, overland (surface) flooding and groundwater.

Home-based businesses should also be insured because that’s your livelihood in the spare room, or down in the basement, or in the garage; all locations that are vulnerable to floods and other perils, putting your income at risk.

We may currently be in wildfire off-season, but now is a good time for planning; assess your property and any areas that may need to be addressed, create a risk management plan so you’ll be better prepared during fire season when it counts the most. As we are now in the midst of a typical rainy BC fall, the time is now to prepare your home and property for the risk of basement flooding, overland (surface) flooding and groundwater.


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