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ICLR launches ‘Insurers Rebuild Better Homes’ program to help reduce risk of loss and damage from natural hazards, including wildfire


May 18, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter


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The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) has launched what it’s calling the first program in the world that sets out actions that insurance companies can take to strengthen the disaster preparedness of homeowners by “building back better” homes after a disaster strikes.

The ‘Insurers Rebuild Better Homes’ program identifies best practices for the design and construction of homes to reduce the risk of loss and damage from several natural hazards, including wildfire. Photo: @MGBlastroid.

The ‘Insurers Rebuild Better Homes’ program identifies best practices for the design and construction of homes to reduce the risk of loss and damage from several natural hazards, including wildfire, the ICLR said in a press release on Tuesday. These elements, the release noted, are “actively encouraged” when insurance companies respond to a total loss, and “should be considered with a partial loss event.”

The insurance industry provides the majority of funds to support the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction of homes damaged or destroyed in Canada by natural hazards. “The recovery and rebuilding process is a critical opportunity to build back better, enhancing the resilience of Canadian homes to future hazards at little or no additional cost,” the ICLR said.

A devastated neighbourhood is shown in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Friday, May 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

A devastated neighbourhood is shown in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Friday, May 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The program sets out three essential elements for each hazard – basement flooding, wildfire, extreme wind and hail – that provide the greatest impact on risk reduction, and several additional elements that would further improve resilience if funds are available.

Elements of the program dealing with wildfires are recommended in all areas at risk of wildfire, and are particularly important in the wildland-urban interface, the release said.

According to the program, the following should be considered part of ‘priority protection’:

  • All roofing materials and installation requirements must be A-, B- or C-rated fire resistant. Asphalt, clay tile or metal roofing should be given preference;
  • Use fire-resistant siding, such as stucco, metal siding, brick or cement shingles. Sheath exterior walls from the ground level to the roofline with minimum ½” sheathing. Exterior walls should be free of gaps or openings that would allow embers to enter a building envelope or become trapped behind siding. Heavy timber construction must provide a minimum 20-minute fire rating; and
  • Ensure that exterior windows, windows within exterior doors and skylights are made of tempered glass, multi-layered glazed panels, glass block or have fire resistance rating of no less than 20 minutes. Exterior doors shall be solid-core wood no less than 1 ¾” thick, approved non-combustible construction, or have a fire protection rating of no less than 20 minutes.

For enhanced protection:

  • Install non-combustible roof gutters, downspouts and connectors, with a cover to prevent accumulation of debris. Use a roof drip edge;
  • Screen vents and soffits with a corrosion-resistant, non-combustible wire mesh (mesh opening not to exceed ¼” in size);
  • Close in eaves, attics, decks and openings under floors with non-combustible materials or, as a minimum, all openings should be screened with corrosion-resistant, ¼” non-combustible wire mesh. Cover attic, foundation and vertical wall ventilation openings with ¼” mesh corrosion-resistant metal screen or other non-combustible material;
  • Install non-combustible mesh window screening to prevent the collection of firebrands and embers or their entry into open windows;
  • Exterior projections (such as decks, balconies, car port covers, etc.) should be constructed of non-combustible material, fire-retardant-treated wood, or other ignition-resistant materials, or be a 1-hour fire-rated assembly;
  • Non-combustible materials should be used for balcony and deck surfaces. Decks should be either sheathed with non-flammable materials with access to allow for clean out of flammable materials beneath decks, or have a non-combustible surface free of combustible material below the deck and out to 1 metre horizontal from the edge of the deck. Stilts should be built from, or encased in non-combustible materials;
  • Install a spark arrester on every fireplace and wood stove chimney (minimum 12-guage welded wire or woven wire mesh, openings not to exceed ½”); and
  • No attic ventilation openings or ventilation louvers shall be permitted in soffits, in eave overhangs, between rafters at eaves, or in other overhanging areas on exposures facing hazardous vegetation.

The new ICLR program addresses the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which was adopted by United Nations’ member states on March 18, 2015 at the 3rd annual UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan. The framework is a 15-year voluntary agreement which aims for the “substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.”

The framework includes four priorities for action, one of which is “enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to ‘build back better’ in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. “The recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phase is a critical opportunity to build back better, including through integrating disaster risk reduction into development measures,” according to the framework.

The new ICLR program also comes as Alberta continues to battle extreme fire conditions in the province. As of 2:30 p.m. on May 17, the Fort McMurray wildfire remained out of control and was estimated to cover 355,000 hectares.


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1 Comment » for ICLR launches ‘Insurers Rebuild Better Homes’ program to help reduce risk of loss and damage from natural hazards, including wildfire
  1. Frank Cain says:

    One of the lessons learned here about a cat fire is that clusters of homes should be built well away from forested areas. It may be more desirable to look out your window to a wooded area than into someone’s back yard but that view could come with a cost. And the price of land is one of the culprits when houses have to be built with a set back of no more that the usual 4′ to the house next door. Additionally, narrow property lines leave no choice but for the design of a house is to be built upwards, creating a funnel direction for the natural acceleration of a fire. The proximity to other houses leaves little doubt as the effect the fire could have.

    Areas concerning flood plains should be taken into account when the proposal is for a home to be built with a basement. Whatever happened to a once preferred choice of a bungalow on a slab? The answer is partially in the rhetoric above. It would now appear that such a choice is governed by land values and urban convenience.

    The proliferation of residential subdivisions, along with commercial building has, with the spurious co-operation of Government permits, overtaken natural green belt resulting in a large absence of normal ground absorbance for water.

    As we do not want to make home in the hinterland nor desire to move more than say 50 miles from our place of work, the conditions facing us for disaster-like problems are probably, in a major way, here to stay. We’ve made them, we live with them.

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