Its getting hotter….


Dare we say it? Is spring finally here to stay?

For many people spring is a time for working in the garden planting flowers, vegetables, and manicuring lawns. But did you know that those pretty flower baskets and pots you purchased from the garden center could actually increase the likelihood of an insurance claim occurring?

Many potted plants that are purchased from stores or garden centers contain little to no actual dirt, and contain other flammable materials such as peat moss, shredded wood or bark. Some potting soil mixtures may also contain fertilizers which can accelerate fires.

Over the last decade in Alberta, peat moss has contributed to a number of major residential fires. The careless disposal of smoker’s material in planters containing peat moss has totaled more than $26,000,000 in damages.

Here are some of the larger losses in recent history:

  • Calgary (March 2010) – Fire caused by cigarette left smoldering in a flower pot resulted in one of the largest condo fires in Calgary history. We insured this condo building and the damage to the structure was over $14 million. Approximately 250 were people displaced.
  • Edmonton (July 2014) – Fire caused by cigarette left in a flower pot. Over 400 people displaced.
  • Edmonton (May 2015) – Fire caused by carelessly disposing of cigarette in flower pot left 155 people displaced.
  • Calgary (July 2007) – Planter containing peat moss ignited spontaneously on the balcony of a third floor apartment. The resulting fire caused over $11 million in damage and displaced 100 people.

The majority of these devastating fire losses were started by cigarettes being put out in planters containing peat moss. That, combined with other factors such as proximity to dry plant matter, propane barbeques and wood siding or decking was a recipe for disaster. So what is it about peat moss that makes it so flammable?

Peat has a high carbon content and can burn under low moisture conditions. Once ignited by the presence of a heat source it smolders rather than bursting into flame and can burn down to the base of a container with no more evidence than a thin smoke plume and pungent odor. These smoldering fires burn undetected for very long periods of time.

So how do we prevent these fires?

  • Water potted plants regularly. Keeping the soil around your potted plants moist will greatly reduce the risk. Remember the soil in pots dries out quicker than garden beds so plan to water these more frequently
  • Consider using clay pots. If a fire does occur, a clay pot will contain the fire better than other pots.
  • Smokers should have a safe place to discard smoking material. Sounds pretty obvious but as the statistics above indicate, not everyone takes the time to think about where they are butting out.
  • Gardeners should keep planters well watered to reduce flammability, and remove dead plants to lessen the potential for a fire. Planters should not rest on or against flammable surfaces such as wooden decks or siding.
  • Stored peat moss should be protected from contact with heat sources.


Simco Management / BFL



Canada is getting wetter…


Canada is getting wetter.  Remember the floods of 2013 in Southern Alberta and Toronto?  We sure do!

The average yearly rainfall in Canada has increased by 12% in the past 60 years.  We get 20 more days of rain per year than we did back in the 1950’s.  Catastrophes like overland flooding are on the increase.   According to Environment Canada, severe weather events that used to happen every 40 years can now be expected to happen every six years!

As an insurance broker we’ve been asked time and time again “can I get flood coverage for my house?”  Unfortunately it’s just not a product that’s ever been offered by the insurance companies operating here in Canada.  Well the good news is, starting in May Aviva Insurance of Canada will be introducing overland water protection for residential property owners and tenants in Alberta & Ontario.

The coverage will be available to homeowners and tenants that have their personal property insured with Aviva Insurance.  The coverage can be added as an endorsement on policies that have sewer back up protection in place.

The coverage is designed to protect individuals from fresh water flood damage.  The endorsement responds to losses that result from the accumulation or run off of surface waters, including torrential rainfall when water enters the property.

Pricing, terms, and conditions are not yet available.  We expect these will vary on a case by case basis.  More information will follow from Aviva as the launch date approaches.

Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about this product as it becomes available.


Seeding the clouds


Yesterday some of the staff at Young & Haggis were given the opportunity to visit with the men & women who work for the Alberta Severe Weather Management Society (ASWMS).  These are the individuals responsible for modifying the weather in Alberta in an effort to reduce the size and severity of hail stones. 
The program runs from June 1 to September 15 each year and is paid for entirely by insurance companies who operate in Alberta.  In fact, its the largest privately funded cloud seeding program in the world.
The program costs about $3 million to run each summer.  Sounds like a lot of money right?  Well compared to how much insurers would be paying out on hail claims if this program didn’t exist, it’s a small price to pay.   The program benefits the consumers too, less hail = less insurance claims = less premiums.

You’re probably thinking…” what a waste of money, look at all the hail we’ve had the past 3 years”    You’re right… sort of.   Yes, we have had a lot of hail, but the purpose of the cloud seeding isn’t to stop hail, that’s impossible.  The purpose is to reduce the size and severity of the hail.  One thousand little hail stones is better than one hundred tennis ball sized hail stones. 
Hail suppression works by seeding thunderstorms with billions of silver iodide smoke particles.  These particles act as artificial ice crystals to freeze up the supercooled water drops in the storms updraft.  The billions of ice crystals, formed from seeding, freeze the supercooled water causing the storm to produce smaller hailstones. 

Seeding does not present any environmental or health hazards. Silver iodide salt is a non toxic material.  Silver occurs naturally in soils and many foods. It is also found in our water supplied in very low concentrations.  The amount of silver iodide used when seeding clouds is very small relative to the large quantities of water in the storm.  The aver seeding rates are about 10grams per minute.  That’s equivalent to putting a spoonful of material over Niagara Falls per minute.   In fact rain fall samples were found to contain lower levels of silver than a cup of water stirred with a silver spoon!

ASWMS has been responsible for seeding clouds since 1996.  They use a fleet of 5 aircraft and operate in central & southern Alberta from Rocky Mountain House south to High River.  ASWMS also has a perfect safety record having never had an accident.  This is pretty incredible considering these are small aircraft battling massive storm cells!