Nature is often an unpredictable part of life in Canada. Canada’s natural disasters are usually less severe than those in many parts of the world but still occur. Floods, wildfires, ice storms, tornadoes, and earthquakes are some of the common natural disasters Canadians experience.

These extreme weather events can cause millions of dollars in damage to property and infrastructure. Natural disasters are unpreventable, so how can you protect yourself against the unexpected?

Canada’s natural disasters

The types of natural disasters you may experience are often related to where you live. Each geographic area faces specific risks. For example, British Columbia experiences forest fires every year, but forest fires are less common in the prairie provinces. Common natural disasters you might experience in Canada are floods, wildfires, ice storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, avalanches, and landslides. Most standard home insurance policies do not cover many of these natural disasters.

Flooding and torrential rain

Torrential rain can cause sudden flooding. Additionally, some properties are built on a flood plain. If you experience extreme flooding, keeping water out of your home will be almost impossible. Floodwater can cause severe damage to your home and belongings and sometimes tragically end in a loss of life.

Home insurance policies typically cover water damage if the source is inside your home, such as a burst pipe. However, if the water damage results from a flood, it’s not usually covered. Some companies offer flood insurance as an extra add-on. Before taking flood insurance, three things to consider are how much flood risk you have, what it covers, and how much the deductible is.

Wildfires

As of September 7th, there have been 4,725 wildfires recorded in Canada. Depending on where you live, you could face a significant risk of property damage and loss as a result of wildfires.

Homeowner’s insurance usually covers fire damage, and your policy may also pay for expenses up to a specified cap if you need to leave your home. Check your insurance policy to find out what coverages you have in the event of a wildfire. If you feel the coverage is insufficient, talk to your agent about increasing your plan.

Ice storms and hail

Ice and winter storms are almost as Canadian as maple syrup. Although they tend to be infrequent, they can inflict incredible property damage. A winter storm can cause power outages which can, in turn, cause internal damage, such as spoiled refrigerated food and frozen pipes. Ice or heavy snow can cause branches to fall or damage vulnerable parts of your property, such as your roof. 

Most home insurance policies cover damage from winter storms, but you will have to pay your deductible. They may also cover costs if you must leave your home because of a storm.  You’ll find specific coverage for damage and temporary living arrangements outlined in your policy.

Tornadoes and hurricanes

Tornados in Canada are not as common as wildfires and ice storms, but do remain a threat. In fact, after the United States, Canada has more tornadoes per year than any other country in the world. The prairies are most likely to see tornado activity, although Ontario saw the most tornados in 2020.

Canada often experiences the tail end of hurricanes from the south. They can cause damage from high winds and heavy rainfall. Most home insurance policies cover damage from wind-related weather events. Insurance coverage can differ between companies, so you should check your policy to understand your coverage.

Your location can increase the odds of your vulnerability to most of Canada’s natural disasters, but high winds affect almost every region. Ensuring you have proper insurance coverage will help you recover financially from damages caused by wind.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes do occur in Canada, but not very frequently. Areas that are most at risk are some parts of the northern territories, the Ottawa River and St. Lawrence valleys, and the coast of British Columbia. Like all natural events, earthquakes vary in severity, but even small ones can cause significant damage.

Earthquake damage is not usually covered in a Canadian home insurance policy. Some insurers offer a separate coverage add-on that you can purchase. The deductible for this type of insurance is typically high and may not cover all possible damage. If you are in a high-risk area or would simply like insurance to cover earthquake damage, talk to your agent to learn more about your policy options.

Avalanches and landslides

If you live in a mountainous region or an area with many hills, you could experience an avalanche or landslide. These events can cause a lot of damage due to the volume of material they can uplift and the speed at which avalanches and landslides travel. Home insurance policies usually exclude coverage for avalanches and landslides, but it may be possible to purchase coverage as an add-on.

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How to protect yourself from Canada’s natural disasters

Although most of these events rarely occur, when they do, they can cause damage ranging from minor to catastrophic. We can’t control nature, but we can take steps to protect ourselves.

Home Insurance

Check your homeowner’s policy to find out what is covered and consider your needs. You might want to increase your coverage, add coverage for incidents that aren’t part of your standard policy, or lower your deductible. Comparing insurers can help you get the coverage you need at the best price.

Make a list of your belongings

It’s hard to remember everything we own at the best of times. Keeping an itemized list or inventory of your belongings can help when you make your insurance claim. You’ll have a better idea of what’s missing or damaged to present it to your insurer.

Emergency kit

Canada’s natural disasters can impact power, heating, water supplies, and infrastructure. It’s a good idea to keep a 72-hour emergency kit on hand in case you lose access to necessary services.

The Government of Canada has a list you can use as a guide to ensure you have 72 hours’ worth of essentials on hand, including food, water, first-aid, and important family documents.

Move valuables out of harm’s way

To minimize your losses from an unexpected natural disaster, you should move expensive or sentimental belongings to a safer location.  For example, if you live in an area prone to flooding, you may not want to keep any valuable items on your basement floor.

Reinforce your home

You can research how to reduce or prevent damage from natural disasters. Reinforcing your home can include minor and major upgrades. Some contractors can help if you plan a big project, such as reinforcing your foundation to prevent earthquake damage.

Preparation for a natural disaster is key

You can’t plan for everything, but you can take steps to reduce the difficulties and damage that arise from natural disasters. Thoughtful preparation will help minimize the problems you might experience from these events. Keeping necessary supplies on hand, moving items out of harm’s way, and having the right home insurance policy can help you survive the effects of a natural disaster.

FAQS

What is a natural disaster?

A natural disaster is a sudden event that occurs in nature. The results of a natural disaster can be catastrophic, causing loss of life, property damage, and sometimes issues that take years to resolve.

Does home insurance cover natural disasters?

Home insurance in Canada covers the results of some natural disasters, for example, damage from extreme wind. It usually doesn’t cover things like earthquakes, floods, or avalanches. Some insurers allow you to add various types of coverage to insure your home against natural disasters.

Have natural disasters increased in recent years?

The costs of natural disasters have risen significantly in recent years because we are experiencing more frequent and intense natural disasters.

Is a pandemic a natural disaster?

It depends on how “natural disaster” is defined. When people think of a natural disaster, they often think of an incident that occurs quickly, lasts a relatively short time and creates a large amount of damage, such as a hurricane or tornado. Pandemics tend to last for a longer period of time time, and the damage is not always as obvious in the short term as it is with typical natural disasters.

Which natural disaster is the most dangerous?

Earthquakes are considered the most dangerous in terms of loss of life and damage.

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