With three coasts, nearly 900,000 lakes and more than 8,500 rivers, significant flooding events are part of Canada’s past and its future. They’re also Canada’s most expensive and most common natural hazards. According to Public Safety Canada, flooding costs Canadians hundreds of thousands in damages. Spring brings the threat of heavy rainfalls across parts of Ontario announcing the return of flood season. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons flooding is a large issue in Canada, and what you should do to prepare for flood season this spring to mitigate damages.
Flood season in Canada
Floods are the most costly natural disasters in Canada in terms of property damage. The potential for flooding exists in many urban areas because Canadian cities developed along rivers, lakes and harbours due to the convenience of commerce and transportation. Federal, provincial and territorial governments have designated a number of flood prone areas in Canada in order to:
- Map out areas of high flood risk
- Restrict development or redevelopment in these areas
- Encourage local authorities to zone on the basis of flood risk
Types of flooding in Canada
Urban areas all over Canada deal with flooding issues. However, the causes of the flooding can vary with the climate and the region. Here are the various types of regions in Canada most likely to experience flooding events:
- River deltas: Deltas form where the flow of a river slows as it reaches the body of water it drains into. This causes that flow to spread out over a larger area and deposit sediment that eventually becomes a landmass. Area: Fraser Delta, British Columbia
- Floodplains: Flat, shallow areas of land adjacent to rivers are prone to flooding. During storms, spring ice melts causing water levels to overtop the riverbank. Area: Humber River Flood Plain, Ontario
- North-flowing rivers: Spring thaws can raise water levels. Accompanying ice jams create natural dams that impede the flow of water through the river. Water dammed by ice jams can flow over the banks of a river, impacting nearby communities. Area: Alberta & Northwest Territories
- Low-lying coastal areas: Along Canada’s coasts, storms bring the risk of atmospheric surges. These surges can push sea water up onto the land. The water level rise that happens when you have a hurricane or a large storm creates flooding or exacerbates flooding for coastal cities. Area: Shediac & Bathurst, New Brunswick
Are you covered for flooding?
Historically in Canada, home insurance policies haven’t covered loss or damage caused by overland flooding. Therefore, coverage for overland water and sewer back-up must be purchased as additional protection or “endorsements”:
- Water damage in a basement due to a sewer backup is only covered if you have purchased specific, optional sewer backup coverage.
- Overland flood damage is only covered if you have purchased specific optional overland flood coverage. However, if you live in a known flood plain, this coverage may not be available.
- Home insurance and business insurance policies generally do not cover damage caused by coastal flooding and/or storm surge.
- Damage to homes caused by wind is usually covered. This includes damage caused by flying debris, falling branches of trees, or damage caused by water entering through openings.
- In certain circumstances, homeowners who are unable to return home due to insured damage are entitled to additional living expenses.
- If you have purchased comprehensive automobile insurance coverage, damage to vehicles from wind is usually covered.
Floods and property damage
Water damage is now the most common type of home insurance claim in Canada. It’s a costly headache for everyone involved! In today’s world of extreme weather events, IBC.ca reports that nearly $2 billion has become the new normal for yearly catastrophic losses. Most of this is due to water-related damage. Nationally, spending money on flood-related repairs accounts for 75% of all weather-related expenditures.
What you may not know is that a standard home policy doesn’t always cover damage caused by water that enters your home from heavy rains, sewer backups or sump pump failures. “Flooding and related sewer backup damage is costly for homeowners, businesses, and municipalities. However, there are steps you can take to help mitigate the risk of water damage to your home and property,” said Kim Donaldson, Vice-President, Ontario, IBC.
However, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) have compiled a list of steps you can take to help mitigate the risk of water damage to your home and property:
- Keep all your floor drains and the storm sewer grates on your street clear of obstructions. Consider installing a backwater valve, when possible.
- Make sure downspouts are clear of debris and that they direct water away from your home to help prevent basement flooding.
- Move valuable items out of your basement to higher levels in your home.
- If you have a sump pump, ensure that it is working properly and that it has a backup power source.
- Have someone check your property if you are away from your home.
Raise large appliances, electrical panels, the furnace and the hot water heater off the basement floor on wood or cement blocks.
- If you need to drive, drive according to the conditions and do not drive over flooded roads.
- During periods of heavy rainfall, limit the amount of water usage (including appliances such as dishwashers or clothes washers) within the house.
- Consider using rain barrels to help hold and manage excess rainwater around the property during flood season.
- If flooding is imminent, shut off electricity to the areas of the home that may be affected. Use sand bags or install flood shields or built-up barriers to stop water from entering through basement windows and doors.
Purchasing flood insurance during flood season
You can purchase overland flooding coverage if you live in an area designated as a flood zone. If you have an all-risk or comprehensive policy, there is coverage for all water damage, except those your insurer will specifically mention. This price of coverage is based on the risk of overland water flooding in your area. If you’re in a low-risk area, it will cost less to add this coverage. Sometimes, you can add overland protection at no cost if you have sewer back-up protection.
If you are adding flood insurance on its own, you’re looking at about $10-$30 roughly per month. You must already carry Sewer Backup coverage to be eligible to add Overland Water Coverage. It is not a stand-alone coverage. If your basement is waterproofed, it can be even cheaper, depending on your home insurance provider. However, if you live in a slightly riskier area – at the bottom of a hill, near a body of water, and in an area prone to heavier rainfall and snow – you can pay significantly more.
Remember: Being proactive and conducting regular inspections of your home is the best way to avoid water damage during flood season. Be sure to speak with an isure representative today to discuss insurance savings to be had by implementing these flood prevention tips in your home.