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Study finds homeowners perceive low risk of sewer backups


December 5, 2007   by Canadian Underwriter


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Insurers need to work to improve homeowners’ risk perception of sewer backups in order to increase their mitigative efforts, says new research from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR).
The ICLR surveyed 805 homeowners in Edmonton and Toronto with the aim of investigating perceptions related to the sewer backup component of urban flooding and mitigative behaviours of homeowners in those cities.
The survey sample included both homeowners who had never experienced sewer backup damages and homeowners who had suffered sewer backup damages at some time in the past.
Results suggested homeowners perceived a low risk of flooding and weren’t doing enough to protect their houses against damage related to sewer backup, an ICLR release indicates. “Furthermore, there existed the perception that the municipal government holds the majority of the responsibility for damages caused by sewer backup.”
Dan Sandink, ICLR research coordinator and author of the report, noted the August 2005 urban flood in Toronto rang up insured damages of approximately Cdn$500 million, half of which was from sewer backups.
Considering the costs of upgrading sewer systems, the unpredictability of heavy rainfall events and the expectation that heavy rainfall events will increase as a result of climate change, homeowners in Edmonton and Toronto will need to become more involved in the mitigation of sewer backup risks over the short- and medium-terms.