The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that the Alberta wildfire is by far the costliest insured natural disaster in Canadian history.
As the residents of Fort McMurray work to recover, rebuild and return to a normal life after the wildfire devastation, news has surfaced that this has been the costliest insured natural disaster in Canadian history.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), in a recent statement, estimates that the insured property damage caused by the May 2016 wildfires to be an estimated $3.58 billion—more than double the insured losses of the 2013 southern Alberta floods ($1.7 billion). The wildfires in Alberta will end up being the costliest insured Canadian natural disaster.
"This wildfire, and the damage it caused, is more alarming evidence that extreme weather events have increased in both frequency and severity in Canada," said Don Forgeron, President and CEO, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).
Digging deeper into the data, the following is a breakdown of the insurance claims and payouts as a result of the Alberta wildfires:
- There are more than 27,000 personal property claims; the average claim is $81,000.
- There are more than 12,000 auto insurance claims, averaging $15,000 per claim.
- There are more than 5,000 commercial insurance claims that average over $227,000 per claim.
How might the wildfires affect your home insurance rates?
Flooding. Winter storms. Freezing rain. Wildfires. Canadian weather has no doubt become more severe over the past few years which is going to impact everyone’s home insurance rates in Canada.
"Insurance companies are paying out more than ever for weather-related claims, an expense that is passed on to all insurance policyholders." explains InsuranceHotline.com’s in-house expert, Anne Marie Thomas. "Chances are everyone’s home insurance rates will increase a bit given the tremendous loss in Alberta."
How to prepare for a wildfire
According to the Government of Canada, wildfires are most likely to happen between May and September. Approximately 8,000 wildfires occur in Canada each year, burning an average area of 2.5 million hectares. While human-caused fires represent 55 per cent of all wildfires, fires caused by lightning (45 per cent) contribute to the vast majority of area burned (81 per cent) because they tend to happen in remote locations and go unnoticed until it’s too late to control them.
- Did you know? A typical home insurance policy will cover damage resulting from a fire – even a wildfire. Damage to your vehicle would also be covered by your auto insurance policy—but only if you've purchased the optional comprehensive or all perils coverage.
Before a wildfire
The following is a compilation of tips from the Public Safety Canada’s Get Prepared campaign on what to do to prepare for the possibility of a wildfire, especially if you live in an area surrounded by brush, grassland or forest.
- Prepare an emergency kit that includes water, food that won’t spoil, a can opener, flashlight, battery-powered radio (with extra batteries), first aid kit, a few basic toiletries, clothing and footwear, cash, and copies of your identification, insurance information and banking details. The food, water and batteries in your kit should be able to sustain you and your family for 72 hours.
- Regularly check for fire hazards around your home, such as dried-out branches or leaves and debris, and remove them. Trees and shrubs should be regularly pruned and firewood should be stored away from the house.
- Have garden hoses that are long enough to reach any area of the home and keep a good sprinkler in an accessible location.
- Maintain a healthy supply of first-aid necessities in the house.
- Have an escape plan so that all members of the family know how to get out of the house quickly and safely, and create an emergency plan that details how everyone can contact each other in case they are separated during an evacuation.
- Make sure every floor and all sleeping areas have smoke detectors.
If there’s a wildfire approaching
If there’s a wildfire approaching your community, you should try to do the following, but only if time permits and it is safe to do so:
- Close all windows and doors in the house, including the garage door.
- Pack your car should you need to evacuate. In addition to your emergency kit, think of the "5 Ps of Evacuation" when packing your car: People, Prescriptions, Papers, Personal Needs, and Priceless Items.
- Turn off propane or natural gas at the tank or the meter. Move any propane barbeques into the open, away from structures.
- Move anything flammable away from the house, like lawn furniture.
- Protect your property by spraying the entire exterior of the house, including the roof, with garden hoses and sprinklers.
When a wildfire threatens your area, the best action to protect yourself and your family is to evacuate early; tune into local radio stations to keep abreast of what’s going on.