Wildfire insurance claims: What you need to know

Steve Kee with the Insurance Bureau of Canada says there are a lot of myths about filing insurance claims during an emergency.

4 tips to make sure you get the insurance you need in a disaster

Home foundations and shells of vehicles are nearly all that remain in a residential neighborhood destroyed by a wildfire on May 6, 2016 in Fort McMurray, Alta.

With wildfires burning profusely throughout Fort McMurray, Alta., many are turning to their insurance providers for help.

Steve Kee, director of communications for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said there are a lot of myths about filing insurance claims during an emergency.

He spoke on CBC Radio's Blue Sky on Friday. 

Here's what you need to know: 

1. You don't have to claim immediately

Kee said one of the big myths is that if people don't file their claim right away, they won't get anything from insurance. 

He said that notion is "ludicrous." Instead, the formal claims process begins when there is knowledge of what damage was done.

For many escaping the fires in Fort McMurray, that's not known yet, and that's OK. They are still eligible to file their claim in the coming weeks.

2. Check in with your insurance provider early and often

Many insurance policies come with additional living expenses, which people are entitled to as soon as they're evacuated.

Kee said there are even some insurance companies providing cheques on the ground at evacuation centres. 

"It helps the people sort of bridge the gap, whether they're going to stay with family or they need to take a hotel or motel somewhere. It gives them that short term relief until we can assess what goes on," Kee said. 

"That's why you need to speak to your insurance rep, just to get things going so you can help yourself in this crucial period."

3. If you have home insurance, you're likely covered

Kee said there are a lot of incorrect facts circulating about whether home insurance is valid if the home was destroyed in a natural disaster.

"People believe that an act of God, so to speak, excludes something from a policy and that's not true. Insurers do pay for damages resulting from many of the natural disasters, including the wind storms, the rain, the hail we see in western Canada, and wildfires," he said. 

Kee said most policies do cover natural disasters.

4. Know your policy

Most importantly, Kee said people should know what's in their policy and what they're entitled to. 

"People need to monitor what's in their policy, see what they're paying, what their coverage levels are, what their limits are," he said.

Kee said some comprehensive policies will even cover damage to vehicles, so it's best to know beforehand.

With files from CBC Radio's Blue Sky