OIBA president says tornadoes are impossible to prepare for

Published: November 4, 2018

Updated: December 3, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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The two tornadoes that tore through the Ottawa-Gatineau region in September were among the most destructive ever, breaking records in terms of insurance losses. The twisters also made their mark on communities and many homeowners are struggling to cope.

Brian Erwin, president of the Ottawa Insurance Broker Association (OIBA), says many people have lost everything and claims are stacking up.

“I’ve been communicating with other people on our [OIBA] board and they’ve been hit with a lot of claims as well.”

In September, parts of Ontario and Quebec (Ottawa-Gatineau) were hit by six tornados, including an EF2 and an EF3. Indeed, the EF3 storm was the strongest to happen in September or later in over a century. Tornados of this strength have been observed in the province earlier in the year. An August 1994 storm that produced an F3 twister (while Ontario employed the normal Fujita Scale measurement system).

Erwin, who is also a partner in Erwin and Currey Insurance, says customers must mitigate their loss now and prevent further damage.

“In some of the places, they were in there putting temporary roofs on [buildings] and tarps,” he said. “We can’t get into some of the areas – streets are blocked off.”

“There was a storm warning coming into Ottawa. From my office, I can see downtown and the sky was dark, and then you could see a little bit of rain starting and then all of a sudden, our power went out at 5:03 and then the rain came,” explained Erwin. “All the streetlights were out, like four-way stops. It was just mayhem, some places looked like a warzone – houses, fences, pools thrown all over.”

Advice

Unfortunately, tornadoes are random enough that they are unpredictable. It is impossible for insurance companies to give sound advice for preparing for a tornado. The best advice is to make sure property is sufficiently protected by home insurance or tenants insurance.

“We are risk managers and a lot of clients do not see stuff like this coming because the first thing they’d say is, ‘a tornado is coming, am I covered?’” said Erwin.