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The Wildfires in Fort McMurray and What You Need to Know [VIDEO]

May 10, 2016

The wildfires in Fort McMurray and the surrounding area are devastating. Everyone at InsuranceHotline.com is keeping the residents of Fort McMurray and the many other communities affected by the wildfires in our thoughts. With this in mind, we want to help in the best way we know how—by relaying information that may help during this difficult time.

If you have home insurance and your home is damaged, you’re covered

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), “virtually every home insurance policy covers damage caused by fire, even if the fire began on a neighbouring property”. It’s important that this be said because there’s a lot of misinformation about natural disasters; some believe there is an “act of God” exclusion on their home insurance policy, but this isn’t the case. In fact, “there is no such thing as an “act of God” exclusion in any property insurance policy in Canada.”

If you have been affected by the Fort McMurray wildfires, do you know if you’re covered by your home insurance policy? Or what you may be entitled to? Or when to make a claim? Our insurance expert Anne Marie has all the answers. Watch #AskAnneMarie below.

What happens if your car is damaged?

If you left a vehicle behind and it’s damaged from the fires, it’s your auto insurance policy—not your home insurance policy—that will help offset the costs of repair or replacement but only if your auto policy includes comprehensive or all perils coverage.

Contact your insurance provider

Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. They may be able to help you in the interim with some of the expenses you’re facing today. Canadian Insurance Top Broker has compiled a directory detailing where emergency insurance claims centres have been set up, as well as phone numbers to call.

  • If you’re not sure, or can’t remember who you have coverage with, contact the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s consumer information line for help at 1-844-227-5422 or by email at FortMacFire@ibc.ca.

Keep your receipts

When your forced to leave your home, it’s not uncommon for your home or tenant insurance policy to provide coverage for the reasonable living expenses you incur, including food, accommodations and basic necessities. Keep your receipts for reimbursement later.

Don’t believe the rumours

The IBC is trying to dispel a rumour that is making the rounds: If you don’t file a claim right away, you’ll be denied coverage. This simply isn’t true. According to the IBC, “keep receipts and contact your insurer when you can. Alternative living expenses start from date of evacuation – not the date of claim.” So while it’s important to get the process started for the help it will provide, you won’t be denied coverage if you don’t immediately submit a claim.

If your home is a total loss

If your home is destroyed as a result of the wildfires, there are several questions you’ll want to ask your home insurance provider:

  1. What are my claim settlement options? Typically, you’ll have two options: you can rebuild or you can take a cash settlement if you decide it’s time to relocate.
  2. What is the policy’s limits for rebuilding? Some policies specify the upper limit of how much money you’ll receive in a claims payout, while other policies include “guaranteed replacement cost” coverage. With guaranteed replacement cost coverage there may be no maximum, it costs what it costs to rebuild your home.
  3. How much contents coverage does the policy include? This is the money that goes towards buying things like new appliances, clothing, linen, furniture and housewares.

Additional tips and resources for residents

Sign up for Alberta Emergency Alerts to keep up-to-date on the latest.

Monitor the emergency updates as they’re released by the provincial government.

If driving, keep an eye on the official road reports.

If you haven’t already, the provincial government urges you to register with the Red Cross.

And finally, the Edmonton Journal has pulled together a comprehensive list of resources for people affected by the wildfires. This list touches on everything from where to go for a shower, get a free meal, to where to go for free cat or dog food.

Ask the Expert. Anne Marie Answers

At InsuranceHotline.com, we get tons of questions from our customers on a range of insurance issues. Follow our Ask the Expert series featuring resident insurance expert Anne Marie Thomas as she answers your most frequently asked insurance questions. Do you have a question about your policy, coverage, or anything else? Ask Anne Marie by using the hashtag #AskAnneMarie and posting your question to our Facebook or Twitter page. Or email us at contactus@insurancehotline.com. Your question could be answered in our next #AskAnneMarie video.