Recovering from the British Columbia wildfires

July 25, 2017

(Vancouver, BC): As evacuation orders are progressively lifted, Square One customers and other affected residents will return home to assess any damage and begin the process of recovery. Provided below is some information on what to expect when you get there. Also provided are some tips on how to minimize risk to you and your property.

What should I do first?

Most importantly, be careful. Be cautious when returning to your home in order to keep yourself and your family safe:

My home still looks okay. What should I do inside?

You may not be out of the woods just yet. Several important steps should be taken to prevent unexpected damage or injury from occurring:

Now that you’re back, you should also do what you can to reasonably protect your home from further damage. Necessary supplies, like plastic sheeting and tape, will be covered as part of your home insurance claim. Keep your receipts, so that you can forward them to your adjuster when requested.

Be wary of contractors who claim to have your insurance provider’s permission to work on your home. Square One will never authorize a third party to work on your home without your knowledge. To ensure work is covered, avoid hiring contractors for any major or nonessential work without first speaking with your adjuster. Be extra cautious if a contractor attempts to pressure or scare you into hiring them “right away” – your adjuster can guide you through the ordinary process of assessing damage thoroughly and carefully, to help you reach the best possible outcome.

My home is gone. How do I deal with the wreckage?

Should I start throwing stuff out?

Try to avoid unnecessarily disposing of damaged items, especially items that you haven’t yet documented with photos. Part of the home insurance claims process is building a summary of everything that was damaged, in order to determine how much money needs to be paid to replace it. Your insurance provider won’t be able to pay for property that’s been thrown away without adequate evidence of damage.

Whenever possible, we recommend that you wait for the municipality or your contractor to remove debris, instead of attempting to do so yourself. Most home insurance policies already include coverage for the cost of debris removal. If you’re not sure how much coverage your policy provides, ask your adjuster to confirm this for you.

If you have to dispose of something for safety or sanitary reasons, take clear photos of it first in support of your claim.

Can my home insurance provider refuse to pay for any costs incurred before I call them to open a claim?

This is absolutely untrue. Your first priority is always your own safety and the safety of your family. Your insurance provider will pay covered claims from the very beginning of the incident, even if you weren’t able to call them right away. BC law allows you to file a home insurance claim up to two years from the date of loss, but we recommend that you contact your home insurance provider at your first opportunity. Starting your claim early allows you to submit the best possible information as it arises, instead of trying to remember details and recreate your steps after the fact.

To open a claim, call your insurance provider; their claims number can be found in your policy package. Square One customers can report claims by using their online accounts, or by calling 1.855.331.6933 and pressing 2 when prompted. When opening your claim, your insurance provider will set aside resources to assist you and an adjuster will be assigned to explain the process and help you work through it.

I still have questions. Who can I talk to?

For assistance with your claim, your first and best point of contact will be your claims adjuster. This is the person assigned to work directly with you, to quantify your loss and help you to build a claim to be paid by your insurance provider.

You can also reach out to local emergency authorities, who will have clear safety and sanitary precautions in place. A good online source of information for those affected by the wildfires is the returning home section of the BC Government’s website.