Dealing with flood damage? What the Insurance Bureau wants you to know
Some companies now have specific policies that cover damage from overland floods, national industry group says
With water levels finally receding in New Brunswick, one phone call many New Brunswickers will be making soon — if they haven't already — is to their insurance company.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says as the extent of the damage becomes clearer over the next few weeks, it's important to document what's been lost.
"Start to document some damage, take photos, keep receipts, then make that call to your insurance representative to see what coverage is included in the policy you have," said Erin Norwood, manager of government relations with the industry group's Atlantic division.
Safety top priority
The Emergency Measures Organization expects people forced to evacuate from their homes over the past two weeks will be returning soon, moving into recovery stage.
But the water levels that demolished homes and displaced more than 1,400 residents will remain above flood stage over the next few days.
Norwood said she realizes people are eager to take stock of what they've lost, but safety still needs to be top of mind.
"It's important to make sure your family is safe before you document damage, and all the other steps that need to happen as we move forward with recovery," Norwood said Wednesday in an interview with Information Morning Saint John.
"Insurers are working to make sure we have enough people on the ground and ready to respond as adjusters are needed in various communities."
Just a few years ago, there was no such thing as coverage for an overland flood, like the one devastating so many properties this spring. The only water damage considered prior to 2014 covered sewer backups.
That has since changed, and overland flood coverage is now widely available under specific policies. However, it's difficult to know how many people bought the product, said Norwood.
"It's important they reach out to their own insurers to figure out what they have for their homes and car," she said.
'They will get to you'
The St. John River reached levels that haven't been seen in at least 45 years, with unprecedented floodwaters in many areas.
Norwood said people without any coverage may qualify for New Brunswick's disaster financial aid program.
The maximum assistance for structural repairs to private residences is $160,000 while the maximum for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations is $500,000.
"Try and see what you may have covered privately first, they'll ask you for that information once you start the [disaster fund] process," said Norwood.
"It's going to be a long recovery process. Insurers are facing a high number of claims calls, so we're asking people to be as patient as possible. They will get to you."
The Insurance Bureau of Canada has set up a phone line for anyone with general questions about policy coverage. People can call the consumer information centre at 1-844-227-5422.
The bureau is a national industry association that represents home, car and business insurers. Its member companies represent 90 per cent of the Canadian property and casualty market.
People can also report flood-related damage by calling Service New Brunswick TeleServices at 1-888-298-8555 from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekends, or by registering online on the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization's website.
Nearly 1,400 people had registered as evacuees by Tuesday afternoon — an increase of about 100 since Monday.
But officials say the actual number is likely much higher because many of the people displaced by the historic flooding have not registered.
The Canadian Red Cross said its New Brunswick floods appeal has raised about $321,000 as of Tuesday night. The money will be used for immediate and ongoing relief efforts, long-term recovery and preparedness.
Anyone interested in donating can call 1-800-418-1111 or visit www.redcross.ca.
With files from Information Morning Saint John