By Andrea Minano
Considerable progress has been made in Canada over the last 10 years to understand and manage flood risks more effectively. The 2013 Southern Alberta floods were a defining moment in Canada’s history that spurred many changes and renewed investment in flood risk management (FRM), such as the launch of the National Disaster Mitigation Program in 2015 (Government of Canada, 2018).
At the same time, actors in the private sector, notably the insurance industry, have become prominent advocates and stakeholders in FRM. For example, in 2014 the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) invested in the development of a first-of-its-kind national flood model for Canada to support the launch of residential overland flood insurance products the following year (Calamai & Minano, 2017). Prior to 2015, home insurance policies did not include overland flood (i.e., insurance for property losses caused by river overflow or intense rainfall) (IBC, 2019a). This gap in home insurance policies became particularly noticeable during the recovery period of the 2013 Alberta floods, since most private losses incurred during this event were not covered by insurance (Haney, 2017).
Has Canada made enough progress in flood risk management?
The Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction emphasizes the need for “good” governance and cross-sector collaboration to overcome weaknesses in disaster management. The Sendai Framework explicitly mentions insurance and the need to “promote mechanisms for disaster risk transfer…to reduce the financial impact of disasters on Governments and societies” (UNISDR, 2015, p. 19). In Canada, it is estimated that 40-60% of residential properties are now insured for flood, a notable change given that less than 10 years ago this type of insurance was unavailable (Public Safety Canada, 2022).
A persistent concern with Canada’s residential flood insurance market is the issue of high-risk properties that insurers assert are too risky or costly to insure (IBC, 2019b). A recent figure from Public Safety Canada indicated that high risk properties may be quoted flood premiums up to $15,000 a year (2022).
Could a public-private partnership reduce the number of high-risk uninsurable properties?
Research is underway that explores how insurance companies and Canadian municipalities could work together to effectively reduce the number of high-risk uninsurable properties.
A survey of Canadian municipalities (n=59) and insurance companies (n=7) in 2021 and 2022 revealed a strong appetite in both the public and private sectors to access each other’s data, such as municipal flood management infrastructure data and locations that insurance companies have identified as high risk of flood. Respondents also favoured the development of a data-sharing platform as a means to access and share data between sectors, and identified some benefits that could result from data sharing, such as increased confidence in insurers’ flood risk assessments. Nevertheless, respondents raised concerns and considerations about cross-sector data sharing, including data privacy, data quality, and intellectual property, which warrant careful consideration.
The Resilience Bridge Platform for cross-sector data sharing
Interviews with municipalities and insurers are underway to further investigate the idea of data sharing. To assist these conversations, a prototype data-sharing platform, the Resilience Bridge Platform, has been developed and will be evaluated by municipal and insurance sector representatives to aid in understanding the prototype’s real-world application, how it may impact internal decision-making and analytical processes, and whether it could be used as a tool to incentivize actions that could realistically lead to changes in flood insurance availability and pricing.
Findings of this study could inform the development of a collaborative mechanism that reflects the interests of both sectors and helps overcome persistent issues with Canada’s residential flood insurance market.
Get in touch
To learn more about this work, contact Andrea Minano at firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Minano recently finished her doctoral studies in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo. Andrea is a specialist in Geographic Information Systems and has previously worked for municipal, provincial and federal governments as well as the insurance industry. Andrea’s research and work experience are highly interdisciplinary ranging from visualization of flood risk, community-based climate adaptation and flood risk management policy. Andrea’s current research focuses on the role of data governance for improving the effectiveness of flood risk management in Canadian cities. Andrea holds a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship for her doctoral research.
Calamai, L., & Minano, A. (2017). Emerging trends and future pathways: A commentary on the present state and future of residential flood insurance in Canada. Canadian Water Resources Journal, 42(4), 307–314.
Government of Canada. (2018, December 21). National Disaster Mitigation Program (NDMP). https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/mrgnc-mngmnt/dsstr-prvntn-mtgtn/ndmp/index-en.aspx
Haney, T. J. (2017). Rising Waters, Difficult Decisions: Findings and Recommendations from the Calgary Flood Project. Centre for Community Disaster Research.
IBC. (2019a). A primer on severe weather and overland flood insurance in Canada. Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). http://assets.ibc.ca/Documents/Resources/A-Primer-on-Severe-Weather-in-Canada.pdf
IBC. (2019b). Options for Managing Flood Costs of Canada’s Highest Risk Residential Properties (p. 56). Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). http://www.ibc.ca/on/resources/studies/options-for-managing-flood-costs-of-canada%E2%80%99s-highest-risk-residential-properties
Public Safety Canada. (2022). Adapting to Rising Flood Risk—An Analysis of Insurance Solutions for Canada (p. 117). https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/dptng-rsng-fld-rsk-2022/dptng-rsng-fld-rsk-2022-en.pdf
UNISDR. (2015). Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2012. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. http://www.unisdr.org/files/43291_sendaiframeworkfordrren.pdf