Fire and Flood: Are your investment properties safe?

This post is sponsored by one of our Trusted Partners, Park Insurance. To become a contributing editor, please contact our Real Estate Investor Solutions Specialist, David Maxwell at david@reincanada.com.

Reports of extreme weather conditions and natural disasters are on the rise. Last year alone, there were more than 1600 wildfires in B.C. burning more than 860,000 hectares. One of the most notable was the Lytton Creek wildfire, which devasted the village of Lytton and sadly cost two people their lives. Aside from fires, Canadians are constantly on the alert for flooding and storms too. What havoc can be wreaked upon your properties? Here are a few tips to help keep you, your family, your tenants and your properties safe this summer.

Be Aware and Get Prepared for Common Canadian Natural Disasters

FIRE

Risks – There are many risks when it comes to wildfires; many of which we have seen clearly over recent summers. There are the obvious risks including air quality, loss of property, and even loss of life, but the list does not stop there. Once the inferno is extinguished, the battle is not over. We’re left with the aftereffects including erosion, landslides due to loss of vegetation, and potentially tainted water due to debris.

Prevention – Slightly more than half of all wildfires in Canada are caused by human activity. Here are 4 ways you can help prevent fires in your area:

  • Comply with fire bans and restrictions
  • Camp responsibly
    • The Government of BC states that campfires should never be more than 1.5 ft by 1.5 feet. They also recommend keeping a shovel or at least 8 litres of water nearby to extinguish your fire, and to create a firebreak. You will also want to ensure your campfire is completely out and the ashes cool to touch before leaving your campsite.
  • Report it! If you spot smoke, flames or an unattended campfire don’t hesitate to call 1-800-663-5555 (in BC) even if you think someone else has reported it.
  • Learn more about wildfire prevention: How Can You Help Prevent Forest Fires?

Prepare – The first step to preparing for a wildfire, or really any natural disaster, is to organize an emergency kit. Encourage all your tenants to prepare and regularly update their own emergency kits. A basic emergency kit should contain: *

  • Water – 2L per person per day
  • Food – canned food, energy bars, and other non-perishable items
  • Can opener
  • Flashlight – with extra batteries
  • Radio – with extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Extra keys
  • Cash
  • Personal documents
  • Emergency plan

*See the complete list from the Department of Public Safety

Now that your tenants are prepared, you also want to prepare your property. Preparing your property for a wildfire can reduce possible exposure to flames. Here are a few steps you can take to prepare your property:

  • Create a 30-100 ft safety zone around your home that is clear of leaves, twigs, and other flammable materials, including lawn mowers, oil or gas cans, propane tanks and wood piles.
  • Mow and water grass regularly
  • Encourage tenants to place a non-flammable screen over their BBQ
  • Review local burning restrictions and regulations with your tenants
  • Review your insurance policy 

Fire risks also exist inside the home, so you should have working smoke detectors in all of your properties. You should also have functioning fire extinguishers in designated places and ensure that all tenants know how to use them.

What to do after – The end of a blazing wildfire is not the end of danger. Before you head back to your property, you’ll need to make sure it’s safe to return. You will need to be cautious as flare ups can occur, so continue to check local news for problem areas for several days.

Find more great tips for protecting your properties at FireSmart Canada.

STORMS AND FLOODING

Risks – Flooding is the most frequently occurring natural hazard in Canada. The most severe floods tend to occur in spring due to heavy rain and snowmelt. But, flooding can happen at anytime. The main risk of flooding is the damage to property and the increased chance of injuries. Additionally, flood waters can be damaging to your health.

Prevention – How can you minimize the impact on your property of flooding from storms? The primary reason for flooding in the home due to a storm is poor drainage. Prevent this by regularly clearing leaves and debris from your gutter and drainage downspouts. It’s also good practice to have a professional inspect your roof regularly for missing shingles or other roof problems.

Consider installing backflow valves on basement floor drains, washing machine drains, toilets and sink drains. Choosing permeable surfaces for driveways and sidewalks can also reduce the risk of flooding. It is also important to make sure your gutters’ downspouts extend at least 2 metres from basement walls. Water should drain away from your property and neighbouring properties.

Prepare – The most important preparation you can make is to be educated about why flooding occurs. Knowing why it occurs and how it will affect your property will enable you to take realistic actions in the event of a flood. If a flood does occur, you may need to build a sandbag blockade to protect your property from the water. The Government of BC has an instructive video with tips to build a sandbag barricade.

What to do after – Restoring your property after a flood must be a top concern so as to prevent further damage and to protect the health of your tenants. Review this flood recovery guide.

No matter how much you prepare there will always be a risk of the unexpected. That’s why having the right insurance coverage is so important. Contact a qualified insurance broker today to help you be fully prepared.

Chris Westrop is the Vice President of Commercial Lines at Park Insurance. He has 30 years of experience in the commercial insurance business and is a Chartered Insurance Professional with the Insurance Institute of Canada. He is also a REIN member and a regular attendee at many of our programs. Learn more about Chris and the experienced team of Commercial Insurance advisors at Park Insurance. Chris may be reached at (604) 659-3133 or cwestrop@park.ca

Chris is also a volunteer fire fighter with the Chilliwack River Valley Fire Department and has first-hand experience fighting forest fires in BC.

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