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Homeowners and Businesses Increasingly Expected to Take Flood Risk Reduction into Own Hands

December 14, 2016

Floods are one of the most expensive natural disasters endured by North Americans today. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, an estimated 1.7 million Canadian homes are at risk of flooding. Flood events are also estimated to cost US companies US$6 billion in insured losses annually.

And Canada is only getting wetter; a trend that has been tracked across Canada since 1948. Although individual extreme weather events cannot be attributed solely to climate change, the Government of Canada has indicated that:

“climate change is expected to continue to impact the amount and distribution of rain, snow, and ice and the risk of extreme weather events such as heavy rainfalls and related flooding.”

Governments are taking action to reduce flood risk and enhance the resilience of buildings and infrastructure to extreme weather. Municipalities, in particular, are leaders on this front. Vancouver, for example, completed a flood modeling and mapping project that identified vulnerable public assets, which led the city to amend its building bylaws. Toronto has its Basement Flooding Protection Program. Calgary requires all main house service connections to be equipped with backwater valves. Ottawa has a by-law that restricts development in flood plain areas, and hazard mitigation initiatives to ensure the continuity of telecommunications networks.

In addition to providing funding to support municipal work, provinces also have a key role to play in proactively mitigating flood risks. For example, New Brunswick maintains a series of dykes that protect coastal agricultural lands. Ontario relies on conservation authorities’ technical capacity to support municipal work, and restricts developments in known flood plains. And Quebec has a rigorous process for managing highway and road drainage.

In the newly signed Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, federal, provincial, and territorial governments have committed to advancing efforts to protect against floods. The high-level plans involve investment in climate resilient infrastructure and integration of resilience — which would likely include flood preparedness — into building design guides and codes. The Framework a new action to develop and modernize flood maps and assess flood risks through the Natural Disaster Mitigation Program.

Despite these various actions, governments can only do so much. The onus is increasingly shifting to homeowners and businesses to know about flood risks and take steps to manage them. Fortunately, we’ve recently observed an increased number of research papers and user-friendly resources that point to actionable steps to improve resilience against flood risks.

A changing climate demands extra vigilance to ensure the safety of our families, our homes and our businesses. Natural hazards may be unavoidable, but our ability to plan and our readiness to respond are both things we can manage. Mantle is available to help identify how climate change and associated risks will impact you and create custom strategies with actionable items to reduce your risk and seize new opportunities.