Costly lessons from 2009: Insurance Bureau of Canada announces year’s costliest extreme weather events

Canadians must adapt to climate change

TORONTO, Dec. 22, 2009 – The severe weather that marked 2009 has been as costly as it has been unpredictable, according to Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). And it has brought home the lesson that urgent action is needed throughout the country to manage the impact of climate change.

“This past year has been incredibly difficult when it comes to extreme weather”, said Don Forgeron, President and CEO of Insurance Bureau of Canada. “This year’s experience supports what insurers have known for some time: that weather patterns are changing for the worse and that severe weather events are becoming increasingly costly.”

Experts at the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen earlier this month confirmed the problem is global. A report from the Belgium-based Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), noted that 224 out of 245 international disasters this year were weather-related, causing $15 billion US in economic damages.

While severe weather events brought losses to many communities across Canada, IBC cited these three as examples of how costly the insured damage can be:

Alberta windstorms

Deadly windstorms pummeled Alberta August 1-3, resulting in an estimated $365 million in insurance payouts.

Ottawa and Hamilton, Ontario rainstorms

Severe storms dumped torrential rains on the Ottawa and Hamilton regions July 24-26 causing $196 million in insurance payouts. Residents and emergency personnel dealt with power outages, fallen trees, damaged roofs and widespread sewer backups.

Vaughan, Ontario tornadoes

On August 20 a series of tornadoes struck the Greater Toronto Area terrifying residents, demolishing homes and causing insurance payouts exceeding $76 million.

Encouraging adaptation

“An unfortunate amount of storm damage is caused by infrastructure failure,” said Forgeron. “Local systems are overwhelmed and unable to handle current levels of precipitation.”

The insurance industry has long advocated to governments at all levels for adequate funding to renew municipal sewer and surface water infrastructure. In 2010, IBC will introduce a program to congratulate communities that have made significant infrastructure investments. The Watershed Awards will recognize forward-thinking communities that are confronting severe weather by improving outdated infrastructure. The call for submissions will be issued in January 2010.

To help Canadians at an individual level, IBC is expanding its efforts to educate consumers about how simple actions can make a big difference when it comes to protecting their property. For example, homeowners could consider installing sewer back-up valves to guard against flooding or use a rain barrel to recycle rainwater and ease the burden of surface water runoff on municipal systems. These education efforts will be further expanded in 2010.

Consumers can visit to learn more about protecting their families and property from severe weather.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada

Insurance Bureau of Canada is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, car and business insurers. Its member companies represent nearly 95% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. The P&C insurance industry employs over 110,000 Canadians, pays more than $6 billion in taxes to the federal, provincial and municipal governments, and has a total premium base of $39 billion.