Every year there seems to be another major disaster. We see them happen, in fact, every other month it seems. While any disaster level event is terrifying, in my mind there is almost nothing that could be worse than a fire. Almost leaves room for one thing though, a wildfire or forest fire.
Being in Regina, we are typically far removed from these events, but even still the clouds of smoke we see annually make it hard to be outside on particularly heavy days, and I couldn’t imagine being closer to these blazes. The devastation cannot be matched, and is hard to truly quantify. At current count, since 2010 there has been around $15 Billion in damage in Western Canada alone. That is a staggering number, made even more staggering by the knowledge that nearly $10 Billion of that was from one event, the Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016.
At the time of writing this, there are 22 active wildfires in the province of Saskatchewan, 5 of which are either not contained or are focused solely on protecting what property can be saved. Here is what you need to know for your insurance if you are ever in this situation.
1) There is a reason lawyers refer to home insurance as fire insurance. If you look in the wording booklet of your home insurance policy, the first covered cause of loss is fire. If an event ever takes place that causes any loss, and you have properly insured your property as owner occupied, tenant occupied, or vacant, you are covered for fire.
2) If you are forced to leave your home, your insurance likely carries a rider to cover you for a specified amount of time for the increased costs of living while you are forced away called “Mass Evacuation”. While this situation is not ideal, keep all receipts for anything you needed to do or had to spend in order to live your life (hotel stays, food bills, travel costs, etc) and submit them to your insurer after you return to your home.
3) Fire is not the only thing that can cause damage to your home. Smoke can cause irreparable damage to your home even if the fire was not close enough to cause damage. For best coverage, ensure you have comprehensive perils covered for smoke.
4) When you do get to go home, arrange with your insurer to have a disaster restoration contractor come out, and depending how long you have been away, do not open any cold storage appliances. In many cases, the power will have been cut to the area, and the combination of high heat, confined space, humidity, and time, does not make for good outcomes for your fridge and freezer. Your insurer will advise you what to do, but in many cases will advise to duct tape these appliances shut and move them to the roadside for collection.
5) The most important part: Coverage cannot be purchased while there is risk of a fire in the vicinity. Purchasing insurance before there is an issue is the only way to ensure your home is covered if something happens.
Just because we live on the prairies does not mean that we are not at risk. We may in fact be less at risk, however if the fires that destroyed homes at Saskatchewan Beach in May 2018 are any barometer, fires can spread fast, and take over your property before you know it.
If something were to happen, it is best to be prepared.