What Fort McMurray residents can expect following the wildfire

May 4, 2016

(Vancouver, BC): As the city of Fort McMurray faces a complete evacuation order, residents may be wondering what happens next. Weather conditions make it difficult to predict which neighbourhoods will be further affected, and residents who have already suffered losses now face the road to recovery. Many wonder if insurance will cover their losses, or if coverage will be denied due to an “Act of God.”

All home insurance policies in Canada cover loss or damage caused by wildfire. This means that homeowners, condo owners and tenants who suffer losses in this event can look to their insurance provider for assistance. In some cases, your policy may cover additional living expenses you incur as a result of the evacuation. Common expenses include temporary accommodations.

You can also rest assured that your policy should respond to fire, smoke or water damages sustained to your home and belongings that result from the wildfire.

Evacuating my home is expensive. Will insurance help with these extra costs?

Most home insurance policies in Canada include coverage for additional living expenses incurred as a result of a civil evacuation order. The amount of coverage can vary depending on the policy you have purchased, but it’s a basic feature included in most policies. Be sure to keep track of additional expenses that you incur, which could include:

While your policy will not pay for ordinary day-to-day expenses that continue during the evacuation, you will likely be entitled to claim the additional costs that you incur as a result of the evacuation order.

Who should I contact for claims support?

Contact your insurance provider right away if you have been ordered to evacuate, or if your home has already suffered damage from the fire. Your insurance provider will open a claim file, set aside resources to assist you, and keep in touch with you throughout the crisis.

Your insurance provider’s claims number can be found in your policy package or on its website. Square One customers can report a claim directly using their online account, or call 1.855.331.6933 and press 2 when prompted. When you call your insurance company, make sure you have 5 to 10 minutes of time for a thorough conversation, and try to have the following information on hand:

Depending on your immediate needs, your insurance provider may be able to issue an immediate advance payment for emergency expenses that you incur during the evacuation. Insurance providers are likely taking a great many new claims as a result of this catastrophe; Square One customers can rest assured that an adjuster will be in touch with all possible urgency.

How will a claim work?

For most insurance customers, your policy deductible will apply. Your deductible, which you chose when you purchased your policy, is the amount of any loss that you must pay personally before your insurance company steps in to pay the rest. Your policy document will show this deductible, and your insurance providers claims staff can confirm this for you.

For the time being, most residents of Fort McMurray will need to wait and see what happens during the evacuation. Many homes will remain undamaged, while others may suffer fire or smoke damage that will need repair or even total reconstruction.

Once the evacuation order has been lifted, residents will be able to return home to determine the extent of damage that their homes may have suffered. When you go back home:

My home was damaged by fire, or even burned to the ground. What now?

It’s now time for you to repair or rebuild. This will be a lengthy process:

I don’t have insurance. What can I do?

Government financial assistance is often very limited in the case of losses for which private insurance was available, which often includes wildfire. However, existing government and charitable agencies may be able to assist residents who did not purchase insurance prior to this crisis.

The Alberta Emergency Management Agency is a provincial agency whose purpose is to create relief programs that offer financial help to those who have property damaged as the result of a disaster. Their intent is to help replace essential property that could not be covered by other means.

To see if a disaster recovery program has been put in place for the Fort McMurray wildfire, visit www.aema.alberta.ca or call 1.888.671.1111. On the AEMA website you can also obtain application forms, learn more about the types of damages and losses that qualify, and read more advice on how to recover after a disaster.

This is one of the most emotional experiences of my life. How can I cope?

If the process of evacuation and recovery is becoming more than you can handle, reach out to local counselling services for help. The American Psychological Association has also published free guidance for individuals suffering from a wildfire catastrophe, to learn more visit www.apa.org/helpcenter/wildfire.

What steps can I take as the evacuation order is lifted?

There are several important steps you should take as you begin the recovery process. For more information, click the link below to review our second article.

Steps to recovery from the Fort McMurray