BC wildfires: It’s time to have frank discussions with clients

Insurers and brokers must act as a reassuring force in a time of catastrophe

BC wildfires: It’s time to have frank discussions with clients

Insurance News

By Bethan Moorcraft

The number of people forced to flee their homes as wildfires rage across British Columbia has now topped 14,000 – and thousands more remain on stand-by to leave at a moment’s notice.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 218 fires burning across the province. At least 10 blazes were threatening urban communities, according to a CTV report.

Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate their homes and are now stuck in a rut of uncertainty, not knowing if they will have a home to return to when the fires are brought under control.

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This is where the insurance industry must step in, said Steve Kee, director of media and digital communications at Insurance Bureau Canada (IBC).

“We as an industry – insurers and brokers - will always attempt to help people where possible. We work in conjunction with first responders and the Red Cross,” he told Insurance Business. “It is our role to be there to take questions and provide answers and reassurance. We must try to bring some clarity to the situation.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck situation for the industry. Right now, we are dealing with a live fire situation so people’s safety is the first priority. Our second priority is to help people who have questions and assist them with figuring out what’s in their insurance policy and so on.”

Kee stressed that insurers and brokers must act as a reassuring force in a time of catastrophe. He said they must reach out to clients to communicate and educate them through various channels. The Fort McMurray wildfires brought a similar challenge to the industry and a key thing learned from that was the necessity to provide clear and concise information as quickly as possible, he explained.

“We spent a great deal of time providing information for a number of different insurers,” he said. “Many people took to social media to talk about the situation. We had to engage with that to help answer questions before they became major issues.”

At this point in time, it is impossible to stipulate how long the current situation in BC will go on for, or how catastrophic the loss will be. Only once the fires have been brought under control will loss adjusters be able to go in and start the claims process. Until then, brokers should be in touch with their clients to explain what happens next.

“Some people will have had to leave in such a hurry that they don’t even know or remember who their policy provider is,” said Kee. “People need to be looking at and understanding their insurance policies. They need to be having frank discussions with their provider to make sure they understand their coverage.”

Insurers and brokers from across the country are already assisting people affected by the wildfires.

Mark Warnquist, chief claims officer for Aviva, said: “Wildfires are one of the most traumatic events that a homeowner or business can suffer from and for many people it will be the first time they have to deal with these types of losses.

“We’re already on the ground helping customers who have been affected and providing insurance advice to those who might be at risk. With the predictions that the fires will continue to spread, customers should listen to local news reports for updates and get themselves and their family, or employees, to a safe place if it looks like their property might be impacted.”

Related stories:
BC wildfires evacuation toll tops 10,000
Provincial state of emergency declared in BC

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