Albertans are more affected by storms than all other provinces combined, says a recent study by AMA Insurance. Severe summer storms (wind, hail and rain-related flooding) have caused more than $5 billion in insured damage since 2010. That’s 4x more damage than during 2002-2009.
While there’s nothing we can do to control the weather, there are some steps we can take to protect our homes and family.
First, stay informed. Download a weather app on your phone. If your current app doesn’t have weather alerts, then consider getting an app that does like Accuweather, the Weather Network and the Weather Channel, or signing up for alerts from the Alberta Emergency Alert system.
Second, have an emergency plan in place, so all family members know where to go and what to do in case of a disaster, whether it is a fire, storm or flooding. Your plan should also include knowing how to turn off the gas, water and electricity at home, in case that's needed.
Third, create an emergency supply kit in advance. Sometimes basic services like electricity and water can go out when severe storms hit. Be prepared with an emergency kit that has enough food and water to last for at least 72 hours. It should also include things like a first-aid kit, flashlights, battery-powered radio, blankets, change of clothes and mobile phone and charger (if there is electricity).
Fourth, protect your home before disaster strikes by preparing your house. Here are some tips for different kinds of disasters:
- Strong winds: Keep your trees trimmed and remove any dead trees and branches. This way if branches do fall, they won’t fall on your house.
- Hail: Check your roof’s structure and integrity, especially on older homes, because hail can puncture a hole in rotted sheathing. You’ll want to move any plants and outdoor furniture inside, if possible. In addition to parking your vehicle inside the garage or under cover to protect it from damage.
- Floods or heavy rain: Maintain your home’s drainage system by clearing all exterior drains and gutters, and making sure sump pumps work.
- Tornadoes: There’s little that can be done to prepare for this type of disaster, because of their power and ability to strike at random. One thing that can offer some protection for household goods during a smaller tornado is to secure loose items like outdoor furniture.
- Wildfires: Depending on the size of the fire, clearing brush to create a buffer zone of at least 30 feet around your house can potentially help stop the flames.
Fifth, be sure you have the right insurance. With natural disasters striking with more force and more often in Alberta, you want to ensure your policy will cover the total replacement cost of your home and contents. Speak to your insurance agent to check what disasters are covered. It may cost a little more for coverage, but you’ll be glad you did it if you have to rebuild after a natural disaster.