ICLR releases major study

    Sewer Backup: Homeowner perception and mitigative behaviour in Edmonton
    and Toronto

    TORONTO, Dec. 5 /CNW/ - On December 5, the Institute for Catastrophic
Loss Reduction (ICLR) released a major study on public perceptions of sewer
backup. The paper is based on a survey of a total of 805 homeowners in
Edmonton, Alberta, and Toronto, Ontario. The intention of the research is to
increase awareness and understanding of homeowner perceptions of sewer backup
and homeowner risk mitigation in Canadian municipalities, and to provide
practical information for municipal government staff responsible for managing
basement flood risk.
    According to Dan Sandink, ICLR research coordinator and author of the
report: "Basement flood damages in Canadian municipalities cost governments,
homeowners and insurance companies millions - and often tens of millions - of
dollars each year. In August of 2005, severe rainfall in the Greater Toronto
Area (GTA) caused extensive overland flood and sewer backup damages, resulting
in the most costly storm in Ontario history. The event caused approximately
$500 million in insured damage - roughly half of that was from sewer backup.
In 2004, 2005 and 2006, Hamilton, Ontario experienced heavy rainfall events
that resulted in several cases of sewer backup, and the cities of Ottawa,
Sarnia, Thunder Bay, Peterborough, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Moncton and
others have also experienced damaging urban flood events in the last 20
    The study investigated perceptions related to the sewer backup component
of urban flooding and mitigative behaviours of homeowners in Edmonton, Alberta
and Toronto, Ontario. The survey sample included both homeowners who had never
experienced sewer backup damages and homeowners who had suffered sewer backup
damages at some time in the past. The survey was professionally administered
in January, 2007.
    Results from the study suggest that homeowner risk perceptions and
mitigative adjustments related to sewer backup are low. Furthermore, there
existed the perception that the municipal government holds the majority of the
responsibility for damages caused by sewer backup. Considering the costs of
upgrading sewer systems, the unpredictability of heavy rainfall events and the
expectation that heavy rainfall events will increase as a result of climate
change, homeowners in Edmonton and Toronto will need to become more involved
in the mitigation of sewer backup risks over the short- and medium-terms.
    From the government side, municipalities should work to provide effective
hazards education programs, and encourage homeowners to take measures to
reduce basement flood risk. Municipalities should also be ready to provide
information to homeowners in order to take advantage of 'windows of
opportunity' - the short time that follows hazard occurrences when the public
is most receptive to hazards information and most willing to take actions to
reduce hazard risks. Formal, ongoing programs, such as Edmonton's basement
flood education program, ensure that information and materials are ready as
soon as a disaster hits a community.
    As part of basement flooding and sewer backup hazard education programs,
homeowners should be made aware that insurance coverage for sewer backup is
generally optional and can be provided at a very low cost. Homeowners who
aren't sure if they have this type of coverage should be encouraged to check
their policies or call their insurance brokers or insurance companies.
    An increase in the intensity and frequency of heavy rainfall events
caused by climate change may result in more frequent and more severe sewer
backup occurrences. Thus, those who have never experienced sewer backup may
experience it in the future, and those who sustained only minor damage in the
past may be at risk of sustaining more severe damage in the future.

    Established in 1998 by Canada's property and casualty insurers, ICLR is
an independent, not-for-profit research institute based in Toronto and at the
University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. ICLR is a centre of
excellence for disaster loss prevention research and education. ICLR's
research staff is internationally recognized for pioneering work in a number
of fields including wind and seismic engineering, atmospheric sciences, water
resources engineering and economics. Multi-disciplined research is a
foundation for ICLR's work to build communities more resilient to disasters.

    Sewer Backup: Homeowner perception and mitigative behaviour in Edmonton
and Toronto is available for download at

For further information:

For further information: or a copy of the full report (either electronic
or paper), please contact: Glenn McGillivray, Managing Director, ICLR, tel.
(416) 364-8677, ext. 3216, cell (416) 277-5827, fax (416) 364-5889,

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