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Does Travel Insurance Cover Wildfires?

Summer is coming, and with higher temperatures in dry climates, so is wildfire season. It’s an unfortunate reality that we’re facing, whether the fires start due to the dry climate or from man-made mishaps. In 2023, Canada’s air quality was rated worse than the US for a historical first because of wildfires. 

According to the Western Fire Chiefs Association, “[f]orested areas, grasslands, and shrublands in places such as the United States, Canada, Australia, [the] Western Cape of South Africa, and Southern Europe are particularly susceptible [to wildfires].” All of these are popular tourist destinations; with that in mind, if your trip is affected by a wildfire, would travel insurance cover you in any way? 

In this blog, we’ll take a look at how TuGo’s Travel Insurance coverage can protect you if your upcoming (or already-in-progress) trip is affected by a wildfire.  

Emergency Medical Insurance

Emergency medical conditions related to wildfires are covered (subject to the terms and conditions of your policy) in the same way as any other emergency medical condition, However, you should be aware that coverage may be impacted by travel advisories related to wildfires: 

If you depart on your trip and a travel advisory stating to “avoid all travel” or “avoid non-essential travel” is then issued for your location due to wildfires, emergency medical insurance for sickness or injuries related to wildfires would be limited to a maximum of 30 days from the date the travel advisory was issued. Note that you must have purchased emergency medical insurance before the travel advisory was issued for coverage to be available. 

If you haven’t yet left on your trip, but decide to proceed with your trip despite the wildfire travel advisory, you won’t be covered for emergency medical conditions directly or indirectly caused by the wildfires. 

Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption 

Trip Cancellation coverage is available provided a travel advisory stating to “avoid all travel” or “avoid non-essential travel” has been issued for any of your travel destinations affected by wildfires. Coverage would be provided if the travel advisory is issued after your policy was purchased and after your trip was booked, as long as  the advisory was still in place on your departure date or at any time within the 7 days before your departure date. 

For Trip Interruption insurance, coverage is available provided the travel advisory is issued after departure, after the date you purchased insurance and during your scheduled travel dates. 

What should you do in a wildfire?

According to getprepared.bc.ca, you should ensure you’re familiar with the risks particular to your community, geography, and region. Take steps to prepare yourself and your household so that you’re fully equipped to respond effectively if a wildfire becomes a possibility in your area, or in the area you’re visiting. Here are some essential steps according to the Government of Canada: 

Before a wildfire 

  • If you’re able to, create an emergency plan with accessible emergency kits for where you are or plan to go. 
  • Keep yourself updated on weather conditions and advisories in your locality or destination, paying extra attention to weather conditions that could potentially trigger wildfires, such as droughts and lightning storms. 
  • Familiarize yourself with and rehearse your main evacuation route at your destination, along with alternative routes out of your community. Keep in mind that wildfire activity can affect evacuation routes. 
  • Eliminate potential fire hazards in and around where you live, such as dried-out branches, leaves, and debris. Ensure you have a functional sprinkler readily available in an accessible area. 

During a wildfire 

  • Stay informed about the wildfire’s progress by tuning in to radio broadcasts, television updates, or local social media channels. Pay attention to warnings and guidance from authorities and emergency officials responsible for coordinating evacuation procedures. 
  • In the event of an evacuation order or if you need to vacate your hotel or rental, ensure you bring your emergency kit and any other vital belongings along with you. 
  • Do not attempt to drive through a wildfire. 
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, leave a clear, visible message to your emergency contacts, indicating where you’re going and how you can be reached. 

When a wildfire is approaching where you are 

  • Close all windows and doors and cover vents, windows, and other openings of your hotel or rental. 
  • Switch off propane or natural gas supplies. Relocate any propane barbecues to an open area, away from buildings, if possible. 
  • Turn on all your lights to illuminate the interior and exterior of your hotel or rental (including porch, garage, and yard, if necessary) to enhance visibility if smoke fills the premises. 
  • Keep updated on the fire situation and potential road closures by following local social media channels and/or listening to your local radio station for the latest information. 

For a more detailed list of wildfire-related tips, please visit getprepared.bc.ca 

Why should you get travel insurance?

Medical billing works different abroad. Whether you’re a Canadian exploring a new country, embarking on a journey to a neighboring province, or a visitor discovering Canada, travel insurance protects you and your travel arrangements. Having a comprehensive policy allows you to rest assured, knowing you’re protected in the event of a medical emergency, travel delays, and more. Curious to learn more? Here are 12 Ways Emergency Medical Travel Insurance Should Cover You. 

You should also consider non-medical travel insurance to protect your investments from unexpected events, like wildfires, floods, or illness. Non-medical travel insurance can also cover you if you lose your luggage or if you plan to rent a car in a foreign territory.  

Interested in purchasing travel insurance? Always do your research first to ensure your travel insurance isn’t a scam. 

In conclusion, understanding whether your travel insurance covers wildfires is essential before heading out on vacation. While policies may vary, it’s crucial to thoroughly review the terms and conditions of your insurance plan to determine the extent of coverage for wildfire-related events. Additionally, proactive measures such as staying informed about local conditions, preparing evacuation plans, and securing comprehensive travel insurance can help mitigate risks and provide peace of mind during your journeys. 

Hopefully this blog post clears up any confusion on wildfires and travel insurance and provides you with helpful information on what to do in the event of a wildfire.  

Safe travels,