Tuesday September 23, 2014


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Protect yourself from spring flooding

Report calls for new approach to flood insurance

It's the time of year when plants and hibernating animals awaken from their winter slumber, Canadians gleefully shed their parkas, and in the words of Lord Alfred Tennyson, a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love. But spring is also when rivers often spill their banks, water tables rise… and sewer lines are most likely to back up. 

Sewer backups can be a huge headache for homeowners. A basement swamped with sewage is an obvious health hazard and can cost thousands of dollars to clean up and fix. There's also the considerable expense of replacing valuable items ruined by basement flooding. 

“Nobody likes to think about it, but sewer backups happen,” says James Savage, Executive Vice President of Western Financial Group.

“That's why we recommend people be adequately insured so they're protected financially.”
Like many insurers, Western Financial Group offers sewer backup insurance as optional coverage on your homeowner or renter's policy. “The premium is typically under $100 a year,” he said.

“That's a small price to pay when you think about the worst-case alternative.”

When it comes to another type of flooding, the kind known as overland or catastrophic flooding that's caused by torrential rains or overflowing rivers, it's a different story.

According to a report by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, Canada is one of the few industrialized nations where homeowners cannot purchase flood insurance.

Here, businesses can buy flood insurance but it is taxpayers who often foot the bill for disaster assistance to flooded homeowners. The report from the independent research body calls on Canadian politicians to rethink this policy, and cites several advantages that flood insurance would have over government relief programs.

For one, insurance companies have established procedures for evaluating and compensating claims, which could mean a shorter recovery period for flood victims. The report also maintains that an insurance program would encourage homeowners to take steps to protect their property by imposing stiffer premiums on those who ignore the flood risk. 
If you live in a flood plain (you can call your local planning office to check), you'd probably like to know what some of these measures are.  According to Savage at Western Financial Group, there are several simple steps to help avoid damage from sewer backup or overland flooding. “Putting in a sump pump is a good idea if your basement is below ground level,” says Savage.

“Backflow valves can also be installed to prevent sewer lines from backing up.”
Other things to consider are putting washers, dryers and other appliances like water heaters and furnaces up on concrete blocks, or putting protective shields around them. Landscaping your yard with vegetation that resists soil erosion, sealing cracks in your foundation and basement floors, and building protective barriers around basement windows and doors will also help.

The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction has even more suggestions for reducing basement flooding. Here's where you'll find them on the institute's website: http://www.iclr.org/flooddroughthandbook.html.


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