June 19 will mark ten years since the devastating Alberta floods, which resulted in total damage estimates of more than $6 billion. Until the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire, the floods were the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history, with insurable damages topping $1.7 billion. A total of 32 states of emergency were declared and over 100,000 people evacuated from their homes. One bright spot was the huge cleanup effort that ensued after the waters had receded, with many Albertans helping people they had never met before restore their homes.
Despite an early melting snowpack and rain in May causing higher than usual river flows, Calgary’s risk of flooding this year is considered normal. In the past decade, Calgary has made great strides in becoming more flood resilient. Significant investments in infrastructure, such as new gates on the Glenmore Dam, have reduced the city’s flood risk by 55% to date. Additional flood mitigation projects that will help protect Calgary continue to progress, including the Sunnyside flood barrier and Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir. These projects are projected to be completed in 2025 and will reduce Calgary’s flood risk by a total of 70%.
Even though Calgary is in a much better position to respond to flooding than it was in 2013, it’s still important to be prepared at all times. Get to know your home’s flood risk by checking your location on the city’s flood maps. As river conditions are unpredictable and can change very quickly, keep visiting calgary.ca/floodinfo for consistent updates. Calgarians can also sign up for alerts to stay informed.
Preparing for a flood
All families who live in or near flood zones should have solid plans in place should a flood happen. Some steps to take include:
- Creating a home escape plan where everyone knows the quickest way out from each location in the house and details where to gather once leaving.
- Prepare an emergency kit with supplies to last at least 72 hours, including medications.
- Check your battery-powered sump pump to ensure it is good working order.
- Move important documents to higher ground and take as many valuables out of your basement as you can.
- Turn off furnace units and outdoor gas valves.
- Unplug all electrical appliances.
During a flood
- Evacuate your home when advised by authorities.
- Move to higher ground.
- If water is already present, stay away from all electrical appliances.
After a flood
- Only return home when authorities have deemed it safe to do so.
- Do not use any of your electrical outlets or appliances until an electrician or your utility company have inspected them.
- Have a qualified inspector check your HVAC appliances.
- Do not go near any downed power lines and report them to your utility company.
- Pump your basement out slowly to prevent structural damage.
Flood insurance in Canada
Flood insurance became available in Canada in 2015 and is now more available and affordable that ever. The definition of flooding is essentially water where it’s not supposed to be, or, more technically, an overflow of water on to land that is normally dry. This is most commonly the result of a river or stream spilling over due to excess rainfall or snowmelt. Every river and stream in the province could possibly flood, says AlbertaWater.com. In fact, floods are considered to be one of the most frequent natural disasters in Canada.
Today most major providers offer flood insurance coverage as part of an enhanced (or extended) water damage endorsement, or as a stand-alone addition to your home insurance policy. The specific language many insurance companies use is “overland flooding,” and the description should clearly stipulate the cause as a rising body of water. As is usual with insurance policies, exclusions will apply.
Extended water damage endorsements may also include coverage for accidents such as groundwater entering your home through basement windows or the foundation, as well as sewer backups. Sewer backup coverage is extremely important, as these incidents happen often and can be devastating. One way to avoid your sewer backing up is to have a backflow valve installed by a professional. This combined with adequate insurance coverage should provide excellent peace of mind.
Lane’s is your Alberta insurance ally
When it comes to your home insurance coverage, we at Lane’s are your allies in the insurance business. We are a leading Alberta-based brokerage, committed to providing outstanding customer service, advanced claims support, and access to the widest possible range of insurance products. We are locally owned and work for you, not for the insurance companies. Contact us at our Calgary, Banff, Edmonton and greater Alberta offices.