Canadian Underwriter

Claims Case Study: The Calgary Zoo

February 7, 2014   by Regan Reid

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When floodwaters rushed through Calgary in June, thousands of people, homes and businesses were affected. And so too were the elephants, giraffes, peacocks and other residents of the Calgary Zoo. The zoo, which is partially located on an island in the middle of the Bow River near Calgary’s downtown, was severely damaged by the floods.

The zoo had about eight hours’ warning that the water was coming. “It actually came down the river described as a wall of water a couple of feet high,” says Dave Wallace, president of Specialized Property Evaluation Control Services Limited (SPECS), the company hired to help manage the restoration of the zoo. One of the zoo’s first priorities, of course, was getting its animals to safety. “They were taking the [lions] out probably half an hour before the wall of water hit,” says Wallace.

Two animals that could not be moved, however, were Lobi and Sparky, the zoo’s resident hippos. As the water level rose, the hippos’ enclosure filled up, and Lobi swam outside of his pen into the flooded African Savannah building. “There was the potential for the hippos to swim out of this building into a flooded zoo and potentially into the Bow River and we could have had hippos God knows where,” Jake Veasey, the zoo’s director of animal care, conservation and research told The Canadian Press. Though a zoo staff member was on hand with a rifle just in case the powerful mammal escaped out of the building, Lobi was eventually guided back into his pen.

When the crisis of hippos in the Bow was averted and the water finally receded, the true scope of the disaster became apparent. Forty-five zoo buildings were damaged by the floods, some of which were total losses. In addition to the water damage, much of the zoo (and Calgary) was caked in silt from the river. “It’s not hard to get rid of the big pieces, take a shovel and pick up the big stuff. But then you’re left with the fine silt, and no matter how many times you clean that, it’s so fine that it gets into the pores of any surface. And it has E. coli, coliforms and bacteria, and we need to make sure that that’s safe for the public, because it’s a public area,” explains Wallace. SPECS brought in Rocky Cross Construction (North) and Belfor to do the cleanup and sanitation, and gave the companies ten days to complete the cleanup. It was a giant endeavor, and at its peak, Belfor had 160 people and RCC North had 120 on the ground, says Wallace. PCL Construction and Ledcor Group were brought in to do the building repairs. Wallace says that Wally Matthews, vice-president of Charles Taylor Adjusters, was deeply involved with the file and ensured that the zoo, City of Calgary, insurers and expert teams were all informed about the mitigation process. From the start, Wallace adds, Aon was also involved to help ensure that all lines of communication were open. According to the Calgary Zoo, the flooding caused more than $50 million in physical damages. Though Wallace won’t talk numbers, he will say that the whole project came in under budget and ahead of schedule.


Copyright 2014 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the January 2014 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.