A large hailstone in a person's hand against the back drop of the home's roof.

Nearly $2 billion is spent on damage claims in Canada due to severe weather each year. And while about 85 percent of Canadians agree they should have a disaster emergency kit ready, about 59 percent don't have an emergency plan according to Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) data on emergency preparedness. If you have concerns about severe weather, there's a lot you can do to protect your family, home and belongings.

Here are a few ways to prepare your home for a natural disaster.

Natural Disasters and Severe Weather

Severe weather can occur at any time. From hailstorms and floods to wildfires and a hurricane or tornado, these events can wreak havoc, uproot entire communities and cause severe damage. Having an emergency preparedness plan can help you ensure the safety of your family and protect your home and belongings.

A few of the top safety tips include:

  • Have an emergency preparedness kit: Your kit should include a flashlight, first aid kit, batteries, water, medication and non-perishable food for and your family. Also, don't forget about food for family pets.
  • Establish a safe zone in your home: Designate a room where you will assemble in the event of a flood (higher ground), a tornado (in the basement or room on the lowest level).
  • Stay connected: Always have a battery, crank or solar powered portable radio so you can hear from local authorities about any evacuation information for your area.
  • Create an emergency evacuation plan for your family: Regardless of whether everyone is at home, work, school or elsewhere, a plan can keep everyone prepared.

Next, let's take a look at disaster preparedness for your home based on the types of severe weather that can occur.

Preparing for a Hailstorm (Tips)

Hailstorms aren't the type of severe weather that's top of mind. But, these types of storms can cause major damage to your home and vehicle(s). The time to prepare for a hailstorm is before it starts to avoid getting injured if you go outdoors to bring items inside.

Here are a few tips:

  • Park your vehicles in an enclosed area like a garage.
  • Put valuable outdoor furniture, bikes and grills in a shed or garage.
  • Bring all pets indoors.
  • Close the curtains to protect from glass shattering if the winds are high.
  • After the hailstorm, assess the damages and immediately file a claim.

Tip: When looking for hailstorm damage, check the roof for any leaks or broken or missing shingles. Check your gutters for any obstructions or damage and check all doors and windows. Make any necessary repairs immediately. Why?

If you have a hole in your roof, for example, and you fail to cover it with a tarp or repair it, your insurance provider can possibly deny the insurance claim because you didn't take the necessary measures from preventing further damage, i.e., it rains and now you have a mould problem.

Preparing for a Tornado or Windy Conditions (Tips)

Canada sees about 60 tornadoes on average every year and floods are one of the most common types of natural disasters that occur in Canada. However, only about one in six residents are properly prepared for an emergency. These types of severe weather-related incidents can strike with little warning. When a tornado or high winds hit an area, debris like flying pieces of wood from fences or tree branches can become projectile objects. That's why it's important to stay indoors and seek cover.

Here are a few tips:

  • Secure outdoor appliances like grills with strong cables or straps.
  • Reinforce or replace older garage doors to ensure they're weighted down and secure.
  • Bring pets inside.
  • Repair and securely fasten any loose siding material.
  • Indoors, keep heavy objects like speakers, TVs and heavy books closest to the floor.
  • Cover your windows and doors with boards. You can also use packing tape on windows by using a large 'X' to prevent them from shattering. If there isn't time before a tornado, close the drapes to block flying glass from shattered windows.
  • Regularly maintain your roof and replace missing or broken shingles.
  • Frequently trim the trees on your property and cut branches that could cause damage if they hit a window or fall onto the roof.
  • Secure any chemicals or hazardous materials away from food, water and heat.

Preparing for a Hurricane (Tips)

While a tornado can occur over land, a hurricane can occur over a body of water. Whether you're near a coastal body of water or not, a hurricane can cause severe damage. One of the most famous hurricanes reported in Canada was Hurricane Hazel in 1954. About 300 million tons of rainwater fell when the hurricane hit and 81 Ontarians died. About 4,000 residents were displaced in Ontario and 1,868 were displaced in Toronto. And, approximately 32 homes washed away from floodwaters on Raymore Drive.

While a lot of planning has gone into moving residential homes away from low-lying, flood zone areas over the years, there are still homes existing in flood zones. Hence, you have to be prepared if a hurricane occurs.

Here are a few tips:

  • Stay on top of pruning tree branches or tall shrubs.
  • Secure your windows, doors, any weak fence material and your garage.
  • Maintain your roof regularly and fix loose or broken shingles as they happen. Make any necessary repairs to your spout and gutter while you're up there too.
  • For your insurance, take an inventory of all your belongings both at home and on your property (don't forget the garage).
  • Keep your disaster preparedness kit available and also set aside extra bottles of water and food. Don't forget your first aid kit, warm clothing and blankets. Keep a generator but don't run it indoors as it's a carbon monoxide risk.
  • With any damages, take pictures, file claims and make repairs right away. Hurricane damage will likely mean other homes are damaged and this can delay the processing of claims.

Preparing for a Flood (Tips)

Flooding can occur without notice whether it's from a stream or river runoff or ground saturation from a severe rainstorm. Flooding can uproot trees, vehicles and even homes, but, there are ways that you can prepare for a flood.

These tips include:

  • Store items in the basement on high shelving and in watertight containers.
  • Backup all data on computers and keep computers and electronics out of the basement if you live in an area prone to floods.
  • Keep your emergency preparedness kit ready if you need to evacuate.
  • If you can't evacuate your location, go to a higher floor and never use the elevator as a power outage can cause it to stop working.
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance.

Understanding Unexpected Events and Your Insurance Coverage

In your home insurance policy, you might see where it states they cover "unexpected events" but don't cover "expected" events:

Unexpected and Expected Events

Unexpected events that are typically covered by insurance might include:

  • A sudden emergency like vandalism or theft
  • A pipe that bursts
  • A natural disaster

Expected events that are not typically covered by insurance might include (as you're responsible for upkeep and maintenance of the home):

  • Roof repairs due to a few roof shingles damaged from wear and tear

Natural Disasters - What's Covered? What's Not

Natural disasters that are typically covered by insurance include:

  • Wildfires and fires that break out due to an earthquake
  • Rainwater that floods the inside your home due to a fallen tree during severe weather
  • Wind, ice and hailstorms
  • Hurricanes and tornadoes

Natural disasters that are not typically covered by insurance include (although a separate rider/extension or add-on policy might be available):

  • An earthquake
  • A landslide
  • A flood (if it's a source of water from outside your home)
  • Sewers that backup

Payout Time Frames

Note: that with these types of claims, it can sometimes take several days or weeks to receive payouts.

Earthquake and Flood Insurance

Depending on where you live, you might want a separate add-on to your existing policy to cover an earthquake or flood. Here's what you need to know.

Earthquake Insurance

An earthquake insurance policy can cover your personal property and any losses that occur due to an earthquake. The policy might also include coverage if you're displaced while repairs are being made. Premiums and the deductible might be higher than standard insurance and the deductible might be 5 percent up to 20 percent of the policy (because earthquakes cause more damage). Here's an example.

If you have $1,000,000 in coverage with a 10 percent deductible, you'll be responsible for the first $100,000. The insurance is responsible for covering the remaining $900,000. However, if your damage is only $40-$50,000, you won't receive any compensation because the deductible isn't reached. Consider lowering the deductible if applicable.

Note: An earthquake policy will typically not cover damage due to a tidal wave or tsunami resulting from an earthquake. The policy also won't cover your land value and any damage to the land after an earthquake.

Payout Time Frames

Note: that with these types of claims, it can sometimes take several days or weeks to receive payouts.

Flood Insurance

Home insurance typically won't cover floodwaters that come in from overland. Flood insurance can cover damage from overland flooding which is runoff from a lake or river. It can also cover damage from heavy rains when the ground is too saturated and water gets into the home. Flash flooding damage is also included as this can occur due to a severe weather-related event like a rainstorm or hurricane.

Costs can vary with this type of coverage and may vary depending on the flood risk and flood zones in your province or territory. Deductibles and premiums might be higher. Your deductible might have a fixed amount. Here's an example.

If you have a deductible with a fixed cost amount of $10,000 and your home floods costing $50,000 in damages, you'll pay the $10,000 and your insurer covers the rest. Consider lowering your deductible if applicable.

What's Not Covered

Note: Don't assume flood insurance covers every type of damage by water. Flood insurance will not typically cover damage from the following:

  • Storm surges, saltwater and rising water tables
  • Sewer backups (purchase a separate policy add-on and consider purchasing a backwater valve)
  • Coastal waters, tidal waves or tsunamis

Payout Time Frames

Note: that with these types of claims, it can sometimes take several days or weeks to receive payouts.

Preventive Steps to Reduce Damage

A few preventive steps can help to lower the damage from a flood.

These include:

  • Adding a backwater valve to stop sewer backups
  • Adding a strap or brace to your water heater to prevent damage
  • Adding hurricane straps to your roof (if applicable)
  • Disconnecting your sewer systems downspout (this might be required in your area)
  • Retrofitting your home to protect from earthquake shifting
  • Sloping the land near your home so water doesn't run towards it
  • Moving valuables and electronics on higher floors or higher shelves in the basement
  • Reinforcing or replacing your garage door, front door and windows

Note: Check in your province or territory for rebates on home improvements. Then contact your insurer. You might be eligible for a discount.

Disaster Assistance

Check in your province or territory if you need disaster assistance after a severe weather event or natural disaster. Some areas have special government programs like the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements program. Programs will vary in assistance and what they offer to provinces and territories.

Payout Time Frames

Note: that with these types of government assistance, it can sometimes take years to receive payouts.

Questions to Ask Your Insurer About Natural Disasters and Coverage

Depending on your coverage and area, there are a few questions you might want to ask your insurer about.

These include:

Payouts for damages

  • How long will it take to receive my claim money?
  • What is the replacement cost of my home? Does my policy include coverage to replace the guaranteed costs or is there a cap on the coverage amount?
  • Am I covered if I'm displaced? Are there limits to living expenses if I'm displaced by a natural disaster?
  • How long will it take to hear back from you if there's a natural disaster and I file a claim?

Policy questions

  • What are the inclusions and exclusions with my particular policy?
  • Should I purchase additional coverage or add-ons for sewer backups, floods, or earthquakes? Is it available through you? Note: If they say it's not available, shop online for home insurance with another insurer. If it is available, compare rates online to lock in the best premiums.
  • What's the risk for disasters in my area? What types of storms are prevalent here the most?
  • Can you give me examples of times your company didn't pay claims due to a natural disaster?

General questions

  • How do you calculate my insurance rate and premiums? How did you determine my deductible?
  • Is my deductible a percentage or fixed amount? Can I change it?
  • Are there steps you want me to take before I file a claim? What about after I file a claim for damages due to a natural disaster?
  • Do you need my inventory list and pictures of my personal property?

Protect Your Home and Belongings with the Best Home Insurance

A natural disaster can happen suddenly. But, a few steps can protect your property and all your belongings. Purchase home insurance to cover any losses from damage. To find the best home insurance, shop around at Kanetix.ca.

With Kanetix.ca, you can compare different home insurance quotes from the leading insurance companies in Canada (and be confident if a natural disaster occurs!). Compare quotes today.

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