RSA Canada urges extreme caution for first look post wild-fire

RSA Canada urges extreme caution for first look post wild-fire | Insurance Business Canada

RSA Canada urges extreme caution for first look post wild-fire
Displaced residents of Fort McMurray’s Wood Buffalo neighbourhood – anticipated to have sustained some of the most severe wildfire damage – are urged to use extreme caution when returning to the area, says a leading general insurer.

"Safety has always been the number one priority through this disaster and it remains so as residents start returning to Fort McMurray on or soon after June 1," says Paul MacDonald, SVP Claims, and RSA Canada. While the evacuation order may be lifted as early as June 1, conditions remain hazardous in the city as debris, poor air quality and a lack of basic services remain issues facing residents. Nearly 90,000 people have been forced to flee the Fort McMurray area and surrounding oil sands following the breakout wildfire on May 1.

Alberta premier Rachel Notley has stated that certain safety and environmental conditions must be satisfied before the city is deemed safe for return. As there has been no public access for over a month, many displaced residents don’t know the extent of damage their homes, vehicles, or businesses have sustained.

"Many of these people will be seeing their homes for the first time since the wildfires took hold, and naturally they'll want to see if their properties have suffered any damage, but we can't stress enough the importance of safety in this situation," MacDonald says. "Residents need to listen to the authorities. Customers won't be allowed to re-enter their homes if they have been deemed unsafe, and they will need to get formal permission from a fire inspector before re-entering."

The insurer is ramping up resources prior to re-entry including field adjusters, media, and emergency authorities, as well as operations to handle an anticipated flood of new claims.

“Do we anticipate a spike in volume when the evacuation order is lifted? I would say, absolutely, yes,” he stated in an interview with Insurance Business Canada. “They’ll be going in and they’ll be faced with the damage that has occurred to their homes, their businesses and their automobiles, and they’ll be calling to get more advice now that they have certainty around their losses.”

RSA warns policyholders not to enter their homes unless given approval from an authorized fire service representative, and to communicate with local authorities to determine the best time to return.

Policyholders should take care to wear safety clothing when accessing their property for the first time, and to contact their adjuster or broker immediately to update them. It’s also encouraged to take photos to help insurers further assess damage to homes and contents.