New Brunswick

FAQ: Your questions about the New Brunswick ice storm

To help New Brunswickers, CBC News has compiled the following information on subjects related to the recent ice storm, such as insurance, food safety, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Do you have other questions about the recovery process after the ice storm? Let CBC New Brunswick know

NB Power says the amount of ice that coated its equipment in the ice storm was four times thicker that the Canadian Standards Association design standard. (CBC)

The province of New Brunswick is still cleaning up after last week's ice storm, which left thousands without electricity for days.

According to NB Power, the storm affected more than 200,000 customers, with about 3,500 still in the dark more than a week later.

The province is addressing the ongoing crisis, which included requesting help from the Canadian military. 

To help, CBC News has compiled the following information on subjects such as insurance, food safety and carbon monoxide poisoning, which may address many questions people have as they recover from the storm. 

About three dozen military engineers will spend the next few weeks on the Acadian Peninsula, clearing roads and yards of trees damaged by last week's major ice storm. (CBC)

Navigating insurance claims

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has issued a release urging insured New Brunswickers to act quickly on their ice storm damage.

The first step is to report any losses to an insurance representative as soon as possible, the association said.

But even before an adjuster starts working on a claim, there are several steps the association said homeowners should take:

  • Take pictures and/or video of any damage to property
  • Start cleaning up if it is safe to do so
  • If possible, protect property from further damage, remove debris and take other mitigating measures
  • Keep all receipts for expenses related to the clean up
  • Take caution when using auxiliary forms of heat and power, as there is the potential of fire and fumes 
  • If you need help getting in touch with your insurer, contact IBC's Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2AS-IBC (1-844-227-5422)
The ice storm left broken utility poles and a tangled web of wires on the Acadian peninsula. (NB Power/Twitter)

"Weather-related damage caused by a tree or branch falling on a house, shed or fence will be covered under most homeowner policies," the association said.

"If a fallen tree damages a vehicle this will be covered if the insured has 'comprehensive' or 'all perils' coverage for their vehicle."

More good news: most policies could pay for all of the frozen food people had to pitch after the power went out, the association said.

Homeowners should still ask their representative about the terms for their specific policy, though.

Disaster Financial Assistance program

Meanwhile, individuals, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations can apply for assistance through the provincial Disaster Financial Assistance program, which helps to cover the costs of damage to essentials.

More questions?

Are you looking for further information that we haven't included here? If so, please let us know by tweeting at @CBCNB. 

If necessary, homeowners can access several complementary services, such as electrical re-connections. The program also includes health and safety inspections, which can be registered for at 1-888-298-8555. 

The program does not assist with damages and loss covered by insurance policy, so it may not cover for frozen food that had to be thrown out.

Homeowners also have to pay for the first $1,000 of damage, however, the province is still asking people to contact it for assistance.

"Applications will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and the deductible will be waived for people who demonstrate financial challenges," the online form said.

The Canadian Red Cross provided cots to warming centres for those who needed a warm place to sleep. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Homeowners also have to include a copy of last year's income tax return if they try to apply for an exemption.

To apply for assistance, they need to report damages to Service New Brunswick using an electronic form or by phone at 1-888-298-8555.

Home and business owners can also apply for emergency repair funding (advance payments), which are issued within 24 to 48 hours of the application.

These payments could, for example, be put towards fixing heating sources.

More information on this is available on the advance payment fact sheet.

Although these payments are typically for claims of more than $10,000, the province won't hand over more than $4,000 per claim, the Emergency Measures Organization said.

You can find further information about the application process here.

Food safety

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the temperature inside a refrigerator should be 4 C or colder, and -18 C or colder in a freezer . The safety of food can be measured using the thermometers on these appliances.

The CFIA offers these tips for handling refrigerated and frozen food after a power outage:

  • Discard any thawed food that has been at room temperature for two or more hours, and any food that has an obvious unusual colour or odour.  Keep in mind that food contaminated with bacteria does not necessarily smell bad or appear spoiled.
  • Food that still contains ice crystals or feels refrigerator-cold can be re-frozen.
  • If raw food has leaked during thawing, clean and disinfect the areas the food has touched. Do not reuse the cloths used for cleaning until they have been disinfected by washing in hot water.
Tobique First Nation raised $1,500 in food, water, and other supplies to assist in the ice storm recovery. (submitted)

The agency also suggested that anyone still waiting for power to come back on does the following with refrigerated and frozen food:

  • Freezing stops the growth of bacteria. Do not open the refrigerator or freezer door unless absolutely necessary in order to maintain the cold temperature.
    • A full freezer will keep food frozen for about 48 hours. A freezer that is half full will keep food frozen for about 24 hours.
    • An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours.
    • If available, add ice to the refrigerator to keep the food at a safe temperature if the power will be out for long periods of time.
  • Do not place frozen food outside, even in winter. The sun's rays could thaw frozen food even when the outdoor temperature is very cold and animals could contaminate your food.
  • If you know that a power failure will last for a long period of time, take the food to a friend nearby who has power.

Tracking the outages

NB Power estimates between 350 and 400 of its wooden poles were brought down in the ice storm. (CBC)

At its height, NB Power said the storm caused a loss of power for about 130,000 of its customers. However, another 70,000 customers were affected in the days after, bringing the total number to 200,000.

The number of affected customers has fallen steadily in recent days. 

NB Power can be reached by phone on the company's general inquiries line at 1-800-663-6272.

Meanwhile, the utility is tweeting updates. For these, follow @NB_Power on Twitter.

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

Two people died from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning after last week’s ice storm, and more than 30 others were sent to hospital with symptoms of poisoning. 1:18

Carbon monoxide gas — which cannot be seen, tasted or smelled — poisoned and killed two New Brunswickers in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Since then, there have been more than 30 suspected and non-fatal cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

There are many sources that can release unhealthy amounts of carbon monoxide, including burning coal, gasoline, natural gas, oil, propane and wood.

Blocked chimney flues, charcoal grills, cooking appliances, generators and vehicle exhaust are also part of this list.

Bottom line: Homeowners should not run a generator or burn open flames inside a home or garage. Instead, the generator should be set up outside, at a fair distance from all windows and doors, with its muffler facing away from the home.

Getting and giving help

The provincial government continues to update its list of open shelters daily. (CBC)

Anyone still without power, can warm up and charge electronic devices at an emergency shelter. The provincial government is updating its list of open shelters daily, which can be found here:

Alternatively, people can seek heat and electricity at one of many warming centres across the province. The current list of those facilities is available here:

Anyone who wants to donate to the ongoing relief efforts, can do so through the Canadian Red Cross. 

Other numbers to know

NB Power has put together a list of important phone numbers.

  • New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization: 1 800 561 4034
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police non-emergency: 1 888 506 7267 (wellness checks) 
  • NB Road Report: 1 800 561 4063 
  • 24-hour Regional Reception Centre/Shelter located in Bas-Caraquet (École l'Éscale des Jeunes, 2930 Morais St.) 
  • Red Cross (locations of warming centres and shelters): 1 800 222 9597

Are you looking for further information that we haven't included here? If so, please let us know by tweeting at @CBCNB.