HomeHome InsuranceReturning home: Insurance experts provide tips for wildfire evacuees returning home

Returning home: Insurance experts provide tips for wildfire evacuees returning home

HALIFAX, NS, June 9, 2023 /CNW/ – Thousands of Atlantic Canadians are returning to their homes following the lifting of several evacuation orders from the ongoing wildfires. This will be a difficult time for many. Residents should not attempt to re-enter their property until officials have deemed it safe to do so.

Those with damage to their property will likely have questions about their insurance coverage. That’s why Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is reaching out with information to help residents over the coming days and weeks.

“We can appreciate the devastation many people are feeling as they return home after the wildfires. IBC and the insurance industry are here on the ground, ready to help,” said Amanda Dean, Vice-President, Atlantic, IBC. “When returning to a home or business after a wildfire, it is best to take extra safety precautions. Unseen dangers may linger, so using caution can help reduce the chance of injury. When in doubt, seek advice from an expert.”

After disaster strikes, what should homeowners do?

  • A homeowner’s first priority must be their personal safety.
  • Do not use well water to drink, cook or bathe. Well water can be contaminated after a fire. Follow the advice of local authorities. For more information, please refer to the Government of Nova Scotia’s “Using Well Water after a Wildfire” brochure.
  • Virtually every home insurance policy covers damage caused by fire, even if the fire began on a neighbouring property, as long as the fire was not started intentionally by the policyholder.
  • Consider having your electrical system checked within a couple of days after re-entering your home.
  • Assess the damage that has been done and determine if it can be cleaned up while taking proper precautions, or whether professionals should be hired. Let your insurer know immediately about any damage.
  • To facilitate claims processing, homeowners should document all property losses and take photographs of damage if it is safe to do so.
  • Check for fumes if you have gas service, and call the local fire department and gas company immediately if you detect an odour.
  • Homeowners who have experienced property damage as a result of a fire should discuss their coverage and any deductibles with their insurance representative as soon as possible.
  • If you have questions about what to do with your fridge and freezer, contact your insurance representative. Local officials will share information about fridge and freezer disposal for the Barrington and Shelburne areas as soon as possible.

Cleaning fridges and freezers

Here’s what you need to know about fridges and freezers and your insurance coverage:

  • Your refrigerator, freezer and their contents are covered for fire and related damage.
  • Your freezer and its contents are also covered for loss or damage caused by an accidental power interruption. Typically, in this situation, your freezer and its contents are insured for a specified amount. Check your policy for that limit.
  • Before disposing of food from your freezer, make a list of the contents or take photos for insurance purposes.
  • For residents impacted by the Tantallon wildfire, please dispose of food waste according to the locations that have been set up for this purpose. This information is available at Halifax Regional Municipality’s “Fires in the Halifax Regional Municipality” webpage.
  • If your insurer agrees the refrigerator or freezer must be replaced, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) must be properly removed before discarding the appliance. Please call 3-1-1 for more information.
  • Fridge and freezer disposal information for Shelburne and Barrington residents will be shared by local officials in the coming days.

Oil tanks and your home insurance

As you return home following approval by authorities, you may discover that your home heating oil tank was affected during the fire. It’s important to take steps to protect you, your family and your property.

  • If you had an oil spill, and there is risk of your fuel oil migrating to a neighbouring property, typically you will be covered under the liability portion of your home insurance policy.
  • If your oil tank is inside your home and it has leaked and caused damage to your home, the damage will be covered under most policies.
  • Some insurers offer optional coverage to cover fuel oil spills that occur outside and remain on the homeowner’s property. If you have an oil spill on your property, please call your insurer, and provide as much information as possible.
  • For more information, please refer to the Government of Nova Scotia’s “Fuel Oil Tanks and Wildfires” brochure.

If my business has been damaged, what should I do?

  • Business interruption or business income insurance is an additional coverage you may have purchased as an add-on to your existing business property insurance policy. This would cover your lost earnings during an unexpected shutdown.
  • A business interruption policy can cover either named perils or all risks.
    • A named perils policy covers losses caused by specific risks or perils that are listed in your policy.
    • An all risk policy provides protection against loss caused by any risk that is not specifically excluded from your policy.
  • Another important factor to consider is the indemnity period. This is the time period that the policy will cover for loss of business income.
  • There are two basic types (or “forms”) of indemnity period: limited and extended.
    • A limited form pays only until the damage is repaired or the property is replaced. As soon as your business resumes, the policy stops paying even if the business has not regained its previous level of earnings.
    • An extended form continues to pay until your business resumes its normal, pre- interruption level of earnings, subject to the maximum period of indemnity listed in your policy.

“As residents return home, it’s important to keep safety as a first priority. Do not enter your home until it is safe to do so, as indicated by the local authorities who will be releasing properties back to homeowners,” said Dean. “We encourage everyone to contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre by phone at 1–844–2ask–IBC with general insurance questions, or if you are having trouble getting in contact with your insurance representative.”

As reported by IBC earlier this year, 2022 was the third-worst year on record in terms of insured damages across Canada due to severe weather. IBC is continuing to engage with the federal and provincial governments on ways to improve the climate resilience of communities. Insured losses related to severe weather in Canada now routinely exceed $2 billion annually. By comparison, between 2001 and 2010, Canadian insurers averaged $675 million a year in losses related to severe weather.

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 the vast majority 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 us on Twitter @InsuranceBureau and 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.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

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