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Extreme weather is the new normal. Prepare and be resilient

As Canadians, we’re experienced with wild weather swings, from bitter-cold winters to lengthy summer heat waves. Adapting to seasonal extremes is part of our national DNA.

So why should we be concerned about climate change?

This is a new Canada

The problem is, climate change means more than a few extra days of adverse weather. It’s having an unprecedented impact. We’re experiencing more frequent and severe wildfires, wind storms, hail, heavy rain and other destructive weather events.

Since 2008, insured losses from extreme weather have more than doubled, from an average of $400 million to over $1 billion per year in Canada. In 2018 they rose to $1.9 billion. This trend can’t be explained by regular variations between seasons.

Significant warming is occurring across the world, but Canada’s climate has, on average, warmed at about double the global rate – and is likely to continue doing so. Extreme weather is the new normal, and it poses a significant risk to our environment, communities and economy.

How do we prepare for this new reality?

You can act to protect what matters most. Taking preventative measures, even before it seems necessary, is the best way to reduce your risk and increase your resiliency. Follow these steps now to save valuable time if a weather alert is issued for your area.

  • Prepare emergency supply kits for your home and cars to sustain you and your family for 72 hours, minimum. Have these accessible all year, not just in the winter.
  • Develop a family emergency plan, so you know how to stay in touch with each other in the event of power or telecom outages.
  • Identify the safest area for shelter in your home and make sure everyone knows where it is. It’s also a good idea to map out evacuation routes.
  • Take a home inventory. This will make your life much easier, should you have a claim during an extreme weather event.
  • Keep outdoor accessories secured and debris away from the exterior of your home.
  • Periodically check for weak branches or trees on your property. Trim or cut down anything that could fall or blow toward your house.

Keep updated on weather alerts

Environment Canada issues four types of weather alerts, depending on the severity of the situation. If extreme weather occurs in your area, monitor these alerts to help make informed decisions and stay safe. The four types of alerts are:

  1. Warning: Severe weather is happening or will happen. This is the most urgent type of alert.
  2. Watch: The potential exists for severe weather. A Watch may be upgraded to a Warning.
  3. Advisory: Issued for less-severe events like fog, frost, freezing drizzle or blowing snow.
  4. Special Weather Statement: Conditions are unusual, but not as urgent as Warnings, Watches or Advisories.

Take extra precautions when severe weather hits

If a weather event impacts your community, take these actions if you’re able and it’s safe to do so:

  • Follow directions from local authorities. If you’re evacuated, don’t return to your home until authorities say it’s safe.
  • Monitor traditional and social media for updates, so you can make appropriate arrangements for shelter and stay aware of possible emergency messages.
  • Be cautious if leaving your home as there may be downed electrical wires, broken trees and other debris surrounding your property and in the streets.
  • Before travelling, check for road closures. If you’re driving when a storm hits, slow down and leave extra room to stop.
  • If you’re concerned about the structural integrity of a building, do not enter it.
  • Document any damaged property by taking a photo or video before you discard any items.

Adapting for an uncertain future

While it’s not possible to prevent extreme weather and storms that occur as a result of climate change, we can prevent them from becoming disasters by adapting our homes and infrastructure. When building or renovating a home, consider using weather-resistant roofing and siding, removing weak branches and trees close to your home, and installing a sump pump with back-up power.

You can also make small changes to your routine to incorporate sustainable living ideas into your life – you may even save a little money along the way.

We believe businesses like ours have a critical role to play. Read our Climate Commitment to learn more about how we’re prioritizing actions to address the key challenge of our times.