Why residential fire frequency is up
A spike in residential fires in condos and rental units across Ontario this year is being attributed to the fact people have been at home and cooking more during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic this past March by the World Health Organization, millions of Canadians who normally work from their office have been working from home, and some get distracted when they are trying to cook.
Some people are putting cardboard in ovens and putting items such as metal in the microwave oven that should not be there. One fire department even issued an advisory for people to take their pizza out of the box before re-heating it.
In Ontario, fatal home fires are up 65% since January compared to this time frame in 2019. Similar increases are being seen across the country. The numbers are alarming. This applies not just to single-family homes, but also to condominium buildings and multi-tenant buildings.
At DPM Insurance Group, beyond the idea of fire-related claims, we want our clients to be safe. With that in mind, we suggest the following:
- Ensure all occupants know what to do in case of emergency;
- Have a plan to escape from a fire and a pre-arranged meeting place outside;
- Always be alert when cooking;
- Only smoke outdoors; and
- Always use a safe method of extinguishing cigarette butts – such as putting them in an ashtray and not discarding cigarette buts in a planter.
About 4.7 million Canadians who do not usually work from home did so during the week of March 22nd to 28th, Statistics Canada reported earlier. When those who usually work from home were included in the statistics, 39.1% of the labour force, which is 6.8 million Canadians, worked from home that week.
The increase in cooking fires could change the way property insurance is underwritten. In particular, there could be a shift in the questions brokers and agents ask consumers who are applying for renters’ insurance. For example, there could be less emphasis on the quality of construction and the building’s fire safety systems, and more emphasis on what the rental units are used for and how often the clients are home.
Every stovetop, water pipe and door hinge is on full tilt when a home is fully occupied all day, every day, so it stands to reason that certain claims will naturally trend higher than others in those times.
Source: Greg Meckbach, for Canadian Underwriter