At the end of April, 13,500 residents of Fort McMurray were evacuated from their homes as the Athabasca River began to breach its banks and flood the downtown area of the city. The cause was a massive ice jam of more than 20 kilometres in length at its initial point.
The flood was horrible news for Fort McMurray residents, who were already worried about the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic and who were just recovering from the 2016 wildfires in northeastern Alberta ― a disaster that ended up being the costliest in Canadian history for insurers. Some of the evacuees hadn’t even had the opportunity to move into their repaired or rebuilt homes when the flood hit. The waters have since receded, but the adverse effects of the will likely last for some time to come.
What is an Overland Flood?
The definition of flooding is essentially water where it’s not supposed to be, or, more technically, an overflow of water on to land that is normally dry. This is most commonly the result of a river or stream spilling over due to excess rainfall or snowmelt, or, as in the case of Fort McMurray, an unnatural obstruction. Every river and stream in the province could possibly flood, says AlbertaWater.com, in fact, floods are considered to be one of the most frequent natural hazards in Canada.
But even though they happen often, overland flood insurance for homeowners was not available in Canada until after the 2013 floods in southern Alberta. Insurers were hesitant to offer packages because of insufficient data, they said, as they were working with old and outdated flood maps as well as navigating the unpredictability of climate change. The reason why some homeowners were able to file a successful insurance claim is because they had a specific endorsement we highly suggest everyone includes on their home insurance policy ― sewer back-up coverage. As the sewer systems were overwhelmed, it was argued that a certain amount of water damage could be attributed to the failing of city and town infrastructure. Depending on the circumstances, the same may be true for some of the Fort McMurray homeowners who unfortunately may not have coverage for overland flooding.
Overland Flood Insurance
Since the 2013 Alberta floods and over the past several years, insurance companies in Canada have been working to provide overland flood insurance to homeowners across the country. Today most major providers offer this coverage as part of an enhanced (or extended) water damage endorsement, or as a stand-alone addition. The specific language many insurance companies use is “overland flooding,” and the description should clearly stipulate the cause as a rising body of water. As is usual with insurance policies, exclusions will apply.
Extended water damage endorsements may also include coverage for accidents such as groundwater entering your home through basement windows or the foundation, as well as sewer backup and sump pump overflow. As mentioned previously, sewer backup coverage is extremely important, as these incidents happen often and can be devastating. One way to avoid your sewer backing up is to have a backflow valve installed by a professional. This combined with adequate insurance coverage should provide excellent peace of mind.
Additional water damage endorsements available through some companies include scenarios such as overflow and backflow from eaves, gutters, and downspouts, and protection from rain, snow, or melted snow entering a home through roofs, walls, a door, or a window. The latter provides peace of mind should an incident like an ice dam occur, which have been common in Calgary during the last couple of springs.
What Water Damage is Included in My Policy?
Water damage is the most common insurance claim by far, and most insurance policies provide protection against certain occurrences as part of regular coverage. Some of these may include ruptures of heating, plumbing, and sprinkler systems, air conditioner leaks, escape of water from appliances and aquariums, and water entering your home from a public watermain.
Disaster Recovery Program
On May 11, Premier Jason Kenney announced his government would provide $147 million to those affected by the Fort McMurray floods from the province’s Disaster Recovery Program. These funds will go to helping families, communities and businesses recover from uninsured damages. That money came on top of $8 million already provided to assist evacuees in covering food and shelter costs while away from their homes.
Trust Lane’s for All of Your Home Insurance needs
At Lane’s Insurance, we only work with the most reputable insurance companies serving the Alberta area providing the most affordable and comprehensive packages available. Remember, if you have any questions about your coverage and you are not getting a clear answer from your provider, feel free to give us a call to help provide answers. We can also contrast and compare your policy with those we provide to find you the very best home insurance coverage at the lowest rates.