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More Than Money: How Can Insurers Help In Case of Natural Disaster?

March 27, 2019
3 mins
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The Fort McMurray wildfire is much fresher in Canadian minds, but many people may remember the devastating ice storms that swept across Canada in 1998. CBC reported that the ice storm cost $5.4 billion in insurance claims, lost work, and utility repairs. Quebec was hard hit and the province discovered flaws in its disaster preparedness plans and power grid. Quebec insurers did not always respond perfectly to the crisis. Some of them failed to provide "additional living expenses" that their policies had promised, leading to legal settlements of more than $50 million in 2013. Times have changed. Insurance companies have created disaster response teams and are using technology to respond more quickly and effectively in a disaster.

Fort McMurray Wildfire Special Needs Were Met by Insurers

While some insurance companies were criticized for rude agents and slow response times during the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire, RSA Canada put its employees into the field, reaching 90% of policyholders within 48 hours of the fire. The company took a proactive approach and met special needs. Insurance companies can use judgment calls to provide aid, and during the Fort McMurray wildfire, RSA was proud to have located a pregnant woman and provided safe accommodations.

Reaching out personally to policyholders in the Fort McMurray area was part of the company's philosophy. "When we speak to a client, we're walking through the policy and how to maximize their coverage," RSA Canada Property Complex Claims Manager David Storey said.

What Do Disaster Home Insurance Policies Cover?

A total of $3.58 billion in claims were paid out following the Fort McMurray wildfires, and the claims process did not always go smoothly. Where RSA Canada sent a team into the area to work quickly and directly with policyholders, Wawanesa responded slowly. Representatives of the company told CBC News that Wawanesa's response was "challenging" because Fort McMurray was "hours outside where its staff is centred."

Most Canadian home insurance policies cover damages in case of:

  • House fires and wildfires
  • Wind damage (storms and tornadoes)
  • Ice and hail
  • Theft and vandalism
  • Water damage from inside the home

You will need add-on coverage for earthquakes and floods if it is available.

What is a CRU: Catastrophe Response Unit or Catastrophe Response

Aviva Insurance and others have formed catastrophe response units or CRUs comprised of expert employees ready to respond to natural disasters and emergencies 24 hours a day. Insurance company CRUs respond to the immediate needs of policyholders.

Part of the response unit's jobs is to determine how to provide additional living expenses (ALE) and loss of use coverage if a disaster forces you to evacuate your home. ALE covers the additional living expenses you may have to pay to live away from home. As an example, if you normally do your laundry at home but must use a laundromat, ALE would cover that additional cost. It may also pay for restaurant meals while you're in temporary lodging if you would normally have cooked meals at home.

Each insurer has different policy options for different homeowners and needs. Investigate home insurance using's comparison tool and see which policy is the best fit for you and your home. More companies realize the importance of the human touch and quick response in case of disaster.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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