As the tornado cleanup begins, document everything, says the insurance industry

As Ottawa and Gatineau area residents start to piece their lives together after a devastating tornado hit the region Friday, the Insurance Bureau of Canada has a piece of advice: document everything.

Severe weather in Ontario has caused close to $1B in insured damage so far this year

An Ottawa firefighter carries out personal items from a home damaged by a tornado in Dunrobin, Ont., west of Ottawa, on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. The storm tore roofs off of homes, overturned cars and felled power lines in the Ottawa community of Dunrobin and in Gatineau, Que. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

As Ottawa and Gatineau area residents start to piece their lives together after a devastating tornado hit the region Friday, the Insurance Bureau of Canada has a piece of advice: document everything.

Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations with the association, says once people know they're safe, they should immediately call their insurance providers.

Most home and business insurance policies cover damage caused by a windstorm, he said, but "policies do differ."

"So you want to contact your insurance company get clarification on any questions you might have with them," says Karageorgos, especially if homeowners are dealing with fallen trees and debris clean up.

"Document any damage by taking photos. If anyone has had to purchase supplies, to either tarp roofs or plywood for closing broken windows, they should keep receipts for any expenses that they have to submit that as part of their claim."

Also, Karageorgos adds, keep receipts for any hotel rooms, food and pet boarding, if needed.

Update your policies 

It's advice echoed by the city of Ottawa.

"Your insurance company will give you direction on your next steps and assist with clean up and debris removal. Please do not bring garbage to the curb," notes a city statement.

"If you are a renter, contact the property owner and your renters' insurance company."

Excluding the recent storm in Ottawa, Karageorgos says so far this year insurers have paid close to $1 billion in damages — in Ontario alone.

"Annually, that figure across Canada has been about a billion dollars. We've already passed that in Ontario," he says.

"We're seeing the severe weather, because of changing climate, is having an impact on our homes or businesses or cars and there's a lot more claims because of that."

Karageorgos says the rise in extreme weather events is a reason for homeowners and businesses to review their insurance policies annually.

"Make sure it meets your needs so that when the next storm hits or the next event occurs people can rest easy that their coverage policy will respond," he says.

For damage sustained in a natural disaster that's not covered by private insurance, the federal government does provide financial assistance to homeowners — through the provinces — via the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) program. 

In its 2016 report, the Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that, with larger and more intense weather events, the DFAA faces costs of around $902 million annually.

Karageorgos says insurance adjusters and claim experts will be descending on the Ottawa area in droves over the next few days, but it could take months for people's lives to return to normal.


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