Insurance Council declares catastrophe in NSW, activates hotline

Flooded road in NSW with sign saying 'road closed by flood.'
Photo by Phillip Flores on Unsplash.

Following relentless rain and flooding, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has today declared an insurance catastrophe for parts of New South Wales.

For the first time since 2016, the Warragamba Dam in Sydney spilled over on Saturday. According to an ABC news report this is called the 'bathtub effect.' When a lot of water accumulates in a low-lying area, like Sydney, it can fill up like a bathtub. As the rain seems to be neverending at the moment, this is what's happening.

What does the catastrophe declaration mean?

In declaring an 'insurance catastrophe' the ICA's main aim is to escalate and prioritise insurance customers affected by flooding. In short, this declaration means that:

  • Claims made by affected policyholders will be given priority
  • Claims from worst affected property owners will be treated as urgent
  • ICA representatives will work with local agencies, services and insurance holders, as soon as emergency services give the all clear
  • Insurance providers will send out disaster response specialists to affected policyholders, as soon as emergency services say that it is safe to do so.

The ICA's disaster hotline has also been activated. So if you are unsure of your insurance details or you have general inquiries on how to claim, you can call 1800 734 621. Although please note that this is not actually a claims lodgement service. To make a claim you will have to contact your insurance provider directly.

Chief executive of the ICA, Andrew Hall says insurance providers have received more than 5,000 claims in the past few days alone.

"The Insurance industry has made this Catastrophe Declaration to activate services and support for affected homeowners and businesses and reassure them that their insurer is there to help," he says.

Returning to your property

There's a lot going on, but if you have been evacuated it might not hurt to come up with a plan for when you do return to your home. Some tips from the ICA are:

  • Safety first. Don't do anything that might put you or anyone else at risk.
  • Wait for the all clear. Only return to your home when emergency services give the go ahead.
  • If your home has been flooded, or partially flooded, don't turn on the electricity until it has been inspected by an electrician.
  • Contact your insurance provider ASAP to make a claim and seek guidance.
  • Take pictures. Make sure you take pictures or videos of any damage done to your property, before you start cleaning up.
  • Keep evidence. Further to that, the ICA recommends also keeping samples of material as evidence of damage.
  • Remove health risks. Saturated carpets and soft furnishings can pose a health risk, so remove these from your home.
  • Make a list. Write up a list of damaged items with detailed descriptions, including information such as brand, model and serial number.
  • Get permission. Make sure you speak to your insurance provider and emergency services first, before authorising any building work. It might even be a good idea to get your home insurance company's permission in writing.
  • Salvage what you can. Lastly, the ICA says not to throw away goods that could be salvaged or repaired.

Want to find out what other assistance is available? Read our guide to government and big banks' NSW financial relief for more information.

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