In today’s episode of Risky Business Paul Martin and Colin Rooke are joined by Brennan mills with Saskatoon Fire and Flood to discuss water loss and residential home insurance.
Listen to the full episode here, or read the full transcript below
Paul Martin: Welcome to Risky Business, Commercial Insurance with Butler buyers. I’m Paul Martin, the business commentator on CKOM, and as always joining me in studio, Colin Rooke, the commercial risk reduction specialist with Butler Byers. And Colin, we have traditionally talked about commercial, you are the commercial guy after all but, we’re going to branch out a little bit and take a look at residential and as you rightly pointed out off the air just before we started, pretty much every business owner has a house too, and their employees have a house and even if they haven’t been in one, they know what they look like.
So, there is some correlation here, but the reason I bring this up is, we went through the first part of the summer was a drought and then all of a sudden the rains got turned on and they haven’t been able to turn off. I’m sure you’re hearing from homeowners who’ve said, “I got water in my basement.”
Colin Rooke: Yeah. The last few weeks there’s been a lot of storms, there’s been a lot of rainfall, a lot of sudden rainfall, a lot of water falling very quickly. And you hit the nail on the head that anyone listening to this show, whether you’re a business owner or not, you either live in a home or know someone has a home, been inside of a home. And yes, the show is primarily, we’re talking about commercial insurance, and you can make an argument that, well, okay as a business owner, if you have a hundred employees and 30 of those are impacted by a flood. I mean, if you take a look at productivity for the next month while they’re dealing with claims, so if we can help those individuals mitigate some potential losses, keep them engaged, focus on work so there certainly is that argument.
As a business owner, if you have a hundred employees and 30 of those are impacted by a flood… you take a look at productivity for the next month while they’re dealing with claims, so if we can help those individuals mitigate some potential losses, keep them engaged, focus on work so there certainly is that argument.
But yes, with all the bad weather. And we often talk about when there’s some new and emerging catastrophic risks in the industry, we’ll often come up with a guide to say, “Well look, this is having more and more. So we’ve developed this to sort of help out with it.” And when it comes to home ownership, we have a home protection guide that specifically deals with flooding. Now, everything from some water in your basement to a pure flood, where the neighbourhood is flooded. But all the tips inside this guide will mitigate in some way at least what you can, the risk of water loss.
Paul Martin: And is it fair to say that over recent memory that what we’ve seen happen is insurance premiums for the home are going up, simply because we’re seeing more of these kinds of storms?
Colin Rooke: Yeah. So anyone that’s listening now, if you’ve paid any attention to your home insurance renewal, I would argue it has not stayed the same. And if you took a look at where these increases are occurring, nine times out of 10 it has to do with water. Sewer backup mainly, which is often caused by or during a storm. And again, so if you’re a homeowner one … I mean, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to deal with sewer backup for reasons I’m not going to get into, but I think we can all use our imagination there, but on top of that, others are experiencing that all the time.
Again, if the insurance companies aren’t making money on a line of business, they’re going to increase the rate. Now, I don’t want to suggest that if you follow this guide that you will get an immediate credit on your home insurance. But if you look at what we do with our clients on the commercial end, we say, “Okay, we want you to work on risk so you are the best in class. You are the better business.” But just imagine if the group took advantage of this, right? Those listening to this show said, “I’m going to take his advice and I’m going to mitigate the chance of water loss from my house.” Just imagine if we had 25,000 people do that. There would be less claims, and less claims would be cheaper rates. So, the reason why the rates are going up is that the damage is getting worse and more often, but also people aren’t doing enough to protect their homes against this. That’s why this guide’s important.
The reason why the rates are going up is that the damage is getting worse and more often, but also people aren’t doing enough to protect their homes against this. That’s why this guide’s important.
Paul Martin: Yeah. Let’s talk about the guide. When we talk about commercial, we use the term step by step guide that you’ll take people through, here are the steps you need to do and identify the potential risk and ways you can mitigate it. Is it similar for this program, for the residential, for your home protection plan? It’s a very similar kind of concept?
Colin Rooke: Yeah, it is. I mean it walks you through what is a flood? What constitutes a flood? And how does the water get in? And how many different ways does the water get in? And how would the insurance company differentiate different types of water losses? But then it goes into what you can do on the outside of your home to mitigate loss. What you can do on the inside of your home. And some of this it’s not new stuff, but if you read through it, you’d say, “Well, gee I knew that I could grade my home differently and go out at least two meters and get the water to run away from the home.” That’s not new, but what’s happening is, it’s just not getting done. It’s not happening. And then further to that, some homes will have a sump pump, others won’t. But do you have a battery operated back up, for when there’s a big storm and you have no power, so you could have all the sump pump in the world, but then power goes out. Do you have a way of getting the water out of your basement or out of the pit? And I would argue that during some of the most severe storms, is where you’re most likely to have water come in your basement. But it is also where you’re most likely to have no power. So just tips and tricks like that. It also explains what’s a backflow valve? Why you should get one, what it does. And again, other minor things, up to even including making a plan or do you know what you would do if you did have water coming in or even what would you do before a big storm, to make sure water doesn’t come in.
Paul Martin: You’ve just raised some really interesting points and I think that probably on the grading one, that was going through my mind was, we’ve had that drought condition for the last couple of years and if you’re in soils around the province, think about and these kinds of areas with heavy clay and that soil is shifting and reshaping itself all the time. A lot of shifting. You may well have had your yard graded properly a year and a half ago or two years ago and just the contraction that comes from drought-
Colin Rooke: Now it’s not.
Paul Martin: … now all of a sudden it isn’t. And where’s it going to contract to? Well the low spot where your foundation was put in the hole.
Colin Rooke: Yeah, exactly. And it also talks about how can you find out more information about where your home is located and what type of flood risk it actually poses, which I would say that most … I don’t think most people wouldn’t know that. And it is something to consider, like are you in a high risk area? Are you in a relatively low risk area? And you could say, “Well, I’ve got to be in a low risk area. I’ve been here 30 years. I’ve had no flood.” That has no bearing on whether or not you’re actually in a high risk area. I mean, you’re not supposed to have had a flood.
So again, it’s worth checking into. And I do want to make one point about the increased frequency and severity of these types of storms. So in all the 1950s across Canada, there was 10 major floods. All 1950s. The last five years, there’s been 40. So I mean, they’re increasing and rapidly and I don’t think it’s going to get better. So again, if you want to have a manageable rate on your home insurance, and again, I mean this for the collective, people got to have to start getting serious about mitigating water losses.
Paul Martin: And today we’re talking just about water loss, not things like hail and that sort of stuff, which is I guess a different kind of deal, right?
Colin Rooke: Yeah, exactly. And hail storms, not a ton you can do other than making sure your roof is done well. I mean we’ve got a Brennan Mills from Saskatoon Fire and Flood. He might have a different opinion but, when you look at again water coming into your basements, seeping in through cracks in the foundation, window wells, heavy rain pour, there is a lot you can do proactively that’s really going to mitigate your chances of again, having some sort of a flood.
Paul Martin: And I guess the first step as we always say is just recognizing that there are steps to take, right? Then your guide shows me what steps and perhaps will remind me of the things that I had overlooked or hadn’t thought of.
Colin Rooke: Like for example again, when was the last time you looked at your foundation for cracks, like gone into your basement let you know … I mean, ideally even if it’s unfinished, obviously it’s easier. Or if you have a furnace room that you know isn’t fully dry walled, take a look or look at your dry wall for any signs of just any water at all. It even talks about why from a flooding perspective, it’s actually a good thing to collect rain water. Well if you’re collecting rainwater on your property in a ginormous barrel, there’s a lot of environmental reasons why that’s good, but again, it’s just less water that’s going up against your home. So again, it’s just full of good tips and tricks and the more people that do this, we need to change the tide. And if you say, “Well I want to be part of that change work on it.” But even if you’re not concerned about your insurance premiums, and again I think Brennan Mills from Fire and Flood who’s with us, would agree that although he’s in the business, it’s not a pleasant thing to have to go through where all your personal belongings, especially in the basin are now floating and low and behold you’ve got sewage in there too. So. Paul Martin: Then you’ve got issues with mold and all that sort of stuff. Well Colin, we’ve got to take a little break and as you alluded to, Brennan Mills is with us in studio, who’s going to join us for the next segment of the show. So, we’re going to take a little break. We’ll come back after this. You’re listening to Risky Business, Commercial Insurance with Butler Byers.
Paul Martin: Welcome back to Risky Business, Commercial Insurance with Butler Byers. Paul Martin, here’s your host today and in studio, Colin Rooke, the commercial risk reduction specialist with Butler Byers, and also joining us is Brennan mills with Saskatoon Fire and Flood. And we’re talking about most specifically residential flooding today. Colin you’ve asked Brennan to come and join us today because he’s the guy who’s on the front line, I guess. And he gets to actually step in the problems that we’re talking about.
Colin Rooke: Yeah. So despite all the work you can do to mitigate, sometimes the largest comes in, sometimes it rains so hard so fast or it gets in however it does. And so a big part of this guide is, “Okay, now I do have water in my home. What should I do? What’s safe? What can I do myself? What should I not be doing myself? When do I need to call the expert? Will my policy pay for an expert?” And so I thought, rather than go through the guide, I would get someone in here that sees it every day. He’s probably been busy the last few weeks with it. So I thought, Brennan will talk about again, when do you need to come to Fire and Flood to come help you out? What can you do yourself? And how do you assess the danger? When can you go back in the home? Things like that.
Paul Martin: All right, thank you. Colin and Brennan just slide up to the mic there. You heard him put the question to you. I mean at what should a homeowner be saying, “I can handle this myself? And, “Whoops, I’ve crossed that line now is what I need some real professional help?” What’s your rule of thumb?
Brennan Mills: Well that can depend on the homeowner or the property owner. Your level of being comfortable with an emergency. Maybe how this is affecting you or what’s going on in your life. So you guys have touched on a lot of good points on what we can do to prevent that. Are your downspouts directed away from your home? Is your sump pump working? Have you made sure different drains are open and able to do their job? But now it’s happened. Now you’ve got an emergency and you’re not sure what to do. So, we get these phone calls and we get homeowners or business owners phoning in and saying, “What do I do now?” Maybe they’ve talked to their broker, maybe they haven’t. So they’ve called us, questions that we now ask is, “Do you know where the water’s coming from? Do you know how much there is?” Or, “Where in your home is this water? Is it a rain or is it a burst pipe?” So, first thing is we have to understand what’s caused this loss, and what we’re going to do to safely help you. You’ve called us at that time, and that’s obviously the first indication that something’s gone wrong and you’re not sure what to do. So, we can come out and take a look with you. Sometimes a small loss may feel larger in the moment, and that’s okay. It’s about calling for help sooner rather than later. So call us, you can get an opinion. We can come out, take a look. These days with a cell phone and taking a picture, something you could text in or email, something that can allow us to give you some advice.
Paul Martin: And I assume they don’t have to wait till they’ve called their insurance agent and said, “I’ve got this thing. Who do I call?” They can get on with the process? Brennan Mills: That’s exactly true. Yeah. At 2:00 in the morning when you get up to get a glass of milk or whatever it is and your socks are wet, it’s usually panic. And you can call. We’ll work with your insurance provider no matter who it is. Really everyone’s first concern is, is it safe in your home? And secondly, how do we mitigate that loss or keep it small?
Paul Martin: Yeah. You just used a very critical word here, is it safe? That’s that critical word. I mean, how as a homeowner do I know? I mean what am I going to be looking out for? What would make my home unsafe in this situation?
Brennan Mills: There, if we’re going to talk about water, I’ll try and stay in that topic.
Paul Martin: Yeah, let’s stay with water for now. Yeah.
Brennan Mills: So, how much water is there? Oftentimes we’ll have a phone call that there’s a foot of water in my basement, and it may only be an inch or two. But in the moment it’s stressful. So, we’re trying to determine what’s safe, things to consider and you know your home better than anyone. Are there utilities in that basement that could be affected? Is there low-lying electrical? Do you have baseboard heaters or potentially is a panel of some sort effected? So electrical is a big one when it comes to water. Don’t step in the water. Take those precautions to understand what could be affecting you. Tie back into where the water is coming from. Is this a sewer backup? So do you know? Often times you don’t. And you know it can be a complicated task to try to determine … Pardon me, where that water’s coming from. Is it coming out of your toilet? Is it coming out of the shower? Is it coming through your foundation or in a window well? Identifying where that’s coming from can help determine if it’s a hazard or not. At that time it would definitely be. If you have eight feet of water in your basement, that could be a hazard. When things are floating and you’re not sure what to do, that’s where we would come in. If we can identify where the water’s coming from and how to get it out, then we can start with the correct PPE or Personal Protective Equipment, how to find that cause and stop it, so that we can now work on fixing it.
If we can identify where the water’s coming from and how to get it out, then we can start with the correct PPE or Personal Protective Equipment, how to find that cause and stop it, so that we can now work on fixing it.
Paul Martin: I assume that if it’s water from a big rain or a flood event or something that’s going on, you’re probably going to have a whole neighbourhood or a block or a chunk of a city or a community that’s probably affected the same way though in a likelihood.
Brennan Mills: Yeah, it could be a … We’ve even seen circumstance where maybe it’s your neighbours downspouts that are pointed too far away and they’re now on your property. Just working together in that circumstance, I mean, everybody’s in this together. Your neighbour’s your family, the neighbourhood as a whole and call it a catastrophe or a cat loss with a large rain or overland flooding. I think you guys have talked on that coverage specifically on this show, but working together and helping each other out.
So if I could tie in on what to do now, you’ve called us, I’d probably advise you. Say there’s a small amount of water and you’ve determined that it is safe. There’s no major hazards or safety concerns. Now you ask yourself what to do. Well, you as a homeowner, I wouldn’t advise you to do a whole lot. Leave that to us, the professionals. But there are a few things that could help with, as Colin had mentioned, the costs of the claim. Do you have content or belongings? Priceless items, maybe photographs or anything that you cannot replace? Those are important items to you as a homeowner and you need to work to save those. We have to be careful of secondary damage, which is when you start picking things up off the floor, and putting them as contaminated items onto uncontaminated. So if you grab a wet cardboard box of something and you put it on the bed or on a pool table, that can cause other damages. So, working towards saving the important things but not causing further damage, and allowing us some time to come by and use our professional skills to mitigate that loss.
Paul Martin: Brennan and as always, as time goes by so quickly, thank you for this and a very insightful and … You know today’s show very practical for just real people because we’re all homeowners and this is the kind of stuff that you never really think about until man, you’re in the middle of it and then it’s no fun at all. So what steps can you take to make that a little less painful? Very good idea. So thanks for joining us and to Colin as always, thank you for joining us. You’ve been listening to Risky Business Commercial Insurance with Butler Byers. This is Paul Martin. Talk to you next time.