Canadian Underwriter

Which insured perils are of most concern to your clients?

December 5, 2022   by David Gambrill

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Winter storms and severe rain or flooding events top the list of insured perils concerning Canadians, according to a new Angus Reid poll commissioned by First Onsite Property Restoration.

Nationally, concern about winter storms (67%) edged out worries about severe rain or flooding (66%) by a slim margin in the coast-to-coast survey of more than 1,500 Canadians.

Just over half (55%) of Canadians were concerned about their level of insurance coverage for the major perils listed in the survey (winter storms, earthquakes, home fires, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes/severe wind, and severe rains or flooding). B.C. residents (at 58%) were most concerned about their level of insurance, while Quebec residents were least concerned (only 48% expressing concern). Ontario fell only 1% below the national average.

Fear about severe rains or flooding was most acute in B.C., where 82% said they were concerned about the water peril.

B.C.’s government has already issued alerts about two atmospheric rivers over the past month-and-a-half. Last winter, flooding caused by atmospheric rivers caused $675 million in insured damage in the province.

Literally like “rivers in the sky,” atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics, as defined by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“While atmospheric rivers are common during the fall and winter storm season, extreme weather similar to mid-November 2021 are rare,” a B.C. provincial government information bulletin said in mid-October 2022. “However, flooding is a common, naturally occurring event in B.C.”

Albertans (64%) were least concerned about flooding, although their concern rated only 2% below the national average.

Wildfires most preoccupied Albertans (75%) and B.C. residents (85%). The 2016 wildfire that burned Fort McMurray, Alta., to the ground cost Canadian P&C insurers an estimated $3.6 billion in insurance payouts — Canada’s record for the nation’s largest insurance loss to date.

Earthquakes are perhaps the single most expensive NatCat peril in terms of projected insured catastrophic damage. And yet, because of their long return period, they appear to be of marginal concern to any Canadians living outside of B.C.

Back in 2013, Insurance Bureau of Canada published a study based on two earthquake scenario tests – a 9.0-magnitude earthquake in British Columbia and a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa corridor. At the time, the study found ‘The Big One’ in B.C. would cause total damage of almost $75 billion overall, while an Ontario-Quebec earthquake would cost about $61 billion. (These estimates include both insured and uninsured losses.)

Almost 40% of Canadians live in the earthquake zones of B.C., Ontario and Quebec. Sixty-five per cent of B.C. residents are concerned about earthquake risk, which is double the national average (35%). However, fewer than half (46%) of Quebec residents expressed concern about earthquakes, while only 29% of Ontarians did.

Not surprisingly, given the $660 million of insured damage Hurricane Fiona in September, Atlantic Canadians listed hurricanes as their top concern in the survey (61%, versus the national average of 34%). However, there is a precedent for inland hurricanes striking Ontario, where Hurricane Hazel caused $137.6 million in total damage in 1954 after hitting Toronto.

Home fires led the list of concerns for Quebec residents at 66%, although most other provinces were nearly aligned with the national average of homeowners concerned about fire (65%).

Tornadoes or severe winds were of most concern in Alberta (63%), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (67%) and Ontario (63%). Nationally, 58% were concerned about damage due to tornadoes or severe wind.

This year, a derecho wind event in Ontario and Quebec caused an estimated $875 million in insured damage, according to Catastrophe Indices and Quantification (CatIQ). In Quebec, concern about wind damage (56%) fell just 2% below the national average.


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