RELIANCE ON private sector insurance is imperative for homeowners and businesses to counter the increase in weather-related catastrophes — and Canadians are ahead of their neighbours to the south in that regard, a disaster and emergency restoration expert told Thompson’s.
Jim Mandeville, senior project manager of large loss North America at FirstOnSite Restoration, said the 2017 hurricane season provided a clear example of how private insurance beats public programs every time.
“In the U.S., through federally funded flood insurance . . . it is notoriously very hard to make a claim and get coverage anywhere near to what the damage is,” he said.
“Like any government program it tends to be dysfunctional.”
He said in the U.S. there seems to be an overreliance on government insurance.
“The prevailing view is ‘The government will look after me,’ but look at New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina), the city’s population shrank because there was no insurance to put them back together — it’s a disturbing problem.”
Dependency on government programs is still a problem in Canada but homeowners and businesses are better protected by private insurance.
“We are seeing a lot of homeowners taking advantage of flood coverage in Canada and there appears to be a better system than in the U.S.,” Mr. Mandeville said.
And severe weather — flood in particular — was no stranger in 2017.
“It was a busier year than usual and the pace and number of catastrophes has been increasing year-over-year for the last 10 years, arguably,” he said.
He noted that severe floods were seen coast to coast in Canada this year, most notably in Windsor, Ont., and Gatineau and Montreal in Quebec.
But even though insurance coverage goes a long way in making those who suffer whole again, more needs to be done by both property owners and governments.
Mr. Mandeville said governments across Canada are doing their part by adopting new building codes to improve disaster resilience, for wildfire, flood and earthquake perils, and individuals are realizing the benefits of such measures as well.
He said simple things like installing backflow valves cost less than $1,000 and can save tens of thousands of dollars if a home floods. For wildfire, installing fire-resistant roofing, cladding and siding materials can save a structure from burning down.
And increasing resilience is the only realistic way of dealing with the increase in weather catastrophes.
“We can’t just insure and then payout — mitigation is needed,” Mr. Mandeville said.
“One thing we are preaching is to be ready. Like a good Boy Scout, it’s better if you prepare upfront.”
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