According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, hailstorms caused $530 million in damage in 2012, and 62 per cent of the country’s insurable losses from natural disasters occurred in Alberta during that year. Before that, it was the wind-driven Slave Lake Wildfire in 2011, the record-setting Calgary hailstorm in 2010, the destructive floods in 2005, the Pine Lake Tornado in 2000, and so forth. The infamous 2013 floods will live in the residents’ memories forever as the costliest of Alberta’s long list of disasters
Recently, governmental and business leaders gathered in Calgary for a meeting, discussing some of the effects the environment has had on home and business owners throughout the world. And while Canada has largely been spared from some of the most severe incidents that have occurred, the country is still at risk of encountering a major disaster – particularly in Alberta.
Alberta tends to be hit the hardest
Don Forgeron, IBC president and CEO, noted that given the climatic conditions in Alberta, it’s gotten the brunt of the storm activity that’s already occurred in Canada and will likely continue to bear this burden for the foreseeable future.
He also stated that one only has to look at the home insurance losses that have originated from the province to get an appreciation for the problem.
“Insured losses in Alberta have eclipsed those in other provinces – reaching hundreds of millions of dollars each year,” said Forgeron. “And we can’t forget that behind these statistics, are stories of injured residents, severely damaged and flooded houses, trees uprooted, cars smashed, businesses interrupted, roads washed out and communities reeling.”
Between 2009 and 2012, IBC estimates that insurance losses averaged approximately $1 billion each year. However, during each of those years, Alberta was hit hardest, with the average property damage losses topping $670 million solely among effects that were insured.
A more detailed analysis provides further clarity. As noted by the IBC, a hail storm that battered Calgary and some of the surrounding towns resulted in claims costs in excess of $500 million. And just last year, sizeable hailstones resulted in an additional $530 million in damage totals.
Natural catastrophes have also led to the shutdown of business processes. In the run up to the busy holiday shopping season, provincial authorities were forced to prevent companies from opening their doors to patrons due to damaging, gale force winds.
Albertans must learn to take some crucial steps to keep their families and possessions as safe as possible during the summer months.
- We must take the possibility of flooding seriously and refrain from building on river banks. The province will no longer compensate new owners of homes in high-risk areas if disaster strikes. The government has served fair warning, the rest is up to us.
- We must keep our homes properly maintained to withstand the summer storms. Any weakness in the roof, doors, windows, walls or foundation leaves it vulnerable to storm damage. Most families do not hesitate to buy several new smart phones and tablets a year, but we treat necessary home maintenance like an optional expense that we cannot afford. Our homes are our most valuable possessions, and we cannot rely solely on insurance to protect them. Most home insurance does not cover flood damage (or sewer back-up due to overland flood, for that matter), and it usually only covers possessions for the the original purchase price.
- We must pay attention to weather reports and take all possible precautions when rain, hail or wind is expected.Though there are a variety of outlets Albertans can use to stay on top of the weather conditions, one of them can be found at the Government of Canada’s website. It provides a seven-day forecast for the various towns within Alberta – such as what the temperature will be like and whether it will be overcast or sunny – as well as historical data, such as the amount of precipitation Alberta sees in June and what the max and minimum temperatures have been.
- We should keep our eyes open for opportunities to minimize damage. For example, we can remove obstacles from around sewer drains in our streets; offer to cut down precarious branches in our neighbours’ gardens, and so on.
Vigilance will not prevent all damage, but it can go a long way toward minimizing it.