Your wildfire evacuation checklist
Wildfires continue to rage across Alberta, where about 19,000 people have been displaced because of evacuation orders.
Thousands of other residents, however, are still waiting for the threat to pass. Wildfires move fast, change direction quickly and are hard to contain. When disasters such as these strike the key thing is your safety, which is why you should always listen to local authorities.
If you’re one of the residents in the province that is still at home and concerned about what to do if you have to leave, HUB Insurance Hunter has pulled together some important tips to help protect your family and home - before and after an evacuation.
What you can do
- Keep in mind that local authorities won’t ask you to leave your home unless they have a reason to believe you are in danger.
- Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions and small appliances.
- Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding.
- Only shut off water, gas and electricity if officials tell you to do so.
- Secure your home by closing and locking doors and windows.
- Depending on how fast the evacuation happens, you may have time to pack a small bag of toiletries and clothes. If time permits, also be sure to take enough basic supplies with you to last 72 hours (this includes food, water, and other essentials such as a first-aid kit).
- Take your wallet/purse, personal identification for each family member, and copies of essential family documents (i.e. passports, etc.).
- Take a cell phone and charger.
- Take any essential medications for your family.
- Take your pets with you.
- Check in at the local evacuation centre.
- Once you are safe, call or email an out-of-town contact to let them know where you are going and when you expect to return.
- Follow instructions from local authorities who will provide you with recommendations on which evacuation routes to take. They’ll also be the ones to let you know when it is safe to return home.
During an emergency, access to information is critical. For the most up to date resources on safety, preparedness, government resources and more visit the HUB Wildfire Resource Centre.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) also recommends creating an emergency preparedness plan. In the event of a wildfire, make sure each household member knows what to do. IBC says your plan should include possible exit routes from each room in your home and a safe place to meet if you’re not at home and need to evacuate by different routes.
Additional living expenses
IBC adds most home insurance policies cover damage caused by fire. If residents have to leave their homes because of mandatory evacuation orders issued by civil authorities, most home and tenant insurance policies will provide coverage for reasonable additional living expenses for a specified period of time. Your insurance company can tell you the details of your policy, and what you’re entitled to as well as what period of time.
They advise residents that have been evacuated to keep receipts and contact their insurer when they can. The additional living expenses start from the day of evacuation, not the date of a claim. IBC says you can initiate a claim for these expenses before you can return home.
Damage to a vehicle from fire or water is usually covered if you have comprehensive or all-perils auto insurance. This coverage is not mandatory, so check your policy.
IBC is a good general resource for wildfires. Visit here for more information. But it is your insurer that will have all the details of your personal policy.
The Province of Alberta, meanwhile, is also currently offering residents a one-time payment if they have been evacuated for seven days or more. Each eligible adult will receive $1,250; an additional payment of $500 will be made for each dependent child under 18.
Evacuees can apply for the emergency payment at alberta.ca/emergency using an Alberta.ca Account. Funds can take up to 24 hours to be deposited via e-transfer into accounts. Evacuees who are unable to receive an e-transfer or who can't apply online can contact 310-4455 to make alternate arrangements.
Applications will remain open until 30 days after the wildfire evacuation order for their community ends.
The most important thing in an evacuation situation is the safety of your and your family members. Always listen to the authorities. And should you have questions about your home insurance policy or need to initiate a claim, remember your insurer is always there to help.