Insurance Assurance

How often have you seen a news report on an apartment fire and heard these words from the reporter: “..and most of the occupants did not have insurance.”

English: Old Fire Insurance plaque at Little D...

English: Old Fire Insurance plaque at Little Durnford Manor House These metal plaques can often be seen on old buildings, and date from the time before the formation of municipal fire brigades. They were placed on fire insured buildings by the insurance company, to indicate the building was covered by their insurance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to wonder at how people could go without having their belonging insured against theft, fire, and other potential disasters.

I really am naïve about insurance and I would be the first to admit it. The only insurance that I have “purchased” was car insurance, though only collision and not comprehensive.

I am not sure when it dawned on me that “I” actually don’t have any renter’s insurance myself. If there were a fire in the buildings where I rented and lived; or if there were a plumbing mishap that led to losing my possessions; or if a burglar came in the night to rob me; I would have no way to replace my possessions, nor pay for emergency housing.

The People's Court

The People’s Court (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is a bit of a scary thought. I don’t know how many times I have heard “Judge Judy” grilling a plaintiff or defendant and asking if they had renter’s insurance accusingly as if they were negligent by not having protection against fire or theft. Judge Milian of “The People’s Court” is not as harsh in that situation.

House Fire

House Fire

I have a good reason why I haven’t had renter’s insurance over the past twenty-odd years. I have never been able to afford it unless I decided to cut out on necessary expenses like food, heat, power, phone… It is true that I have a computer, but that’s something that for myself, I count along the lines of having a phone. I use the computer in a lot of my volunteer work and much of the time I have been using hand-me-down computers or ones I have cobbled together from spare parts. (One reason why I really hate to throw out outdated computer hardware.)

Garnisons Kirke (Garrison Church), Copenhagen,...

Garnisons Kirke (Garrison Church), Copenhagen, Denmark. Headstone for I.P.E.Hartmann. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The cost of renter’s insurance would be a significant chunk of my budget. (My total budget isn’t huge.) That is as much as I would love to be insured. The same goes for most life insurance. I’d love to have enough life insurance to pay for my debts and funeral if nothing else. I don’t have any dependants. The closest thing do dependants I have being my Mother, Sister, Brother-in-law, and Friends. They are not really dependants, but would be more those who might inherit what I leave behind me.

English: ALH House Striking red brick building...

English: ALH House Striking red brick building at the corner of High Street and Queensway, Hemel Hempstead. Now housing insurance company offices. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think when they mention on news reports that victims of an apartment or house fire have no insurance, it is not disparaging. I think it is to encourage the community to rally around the victims to replace what they have lost. At least the normal physical possessions. Things like treasured photos or other items of sentimental value can’t be replaced.

I wonder… what if there were a form of insurance backed by the government for low-income families? I know insurance companies might call “foul” out of fear of losing profit. But… I am talking of folks that wouldn’t be able to pay for insurance in any case. Or… does something like this actually exist?


What We Have is a Failure to Communicate!

It is 5:32 AM and you are woken by your spouse. They are shaking you and in distress. They are strangely quiet. Even in the half light of early morning their face looks strange and you realize only strange sounds are coming from their mouth — slurred sounds.

As your own mind wakes to full alertness one word bursts into it — “Stroke!”

Please Listen For Dial Tone

Please Listen For Dial Tone (Photo credit: Tweygant)

Trying to calm your spouse you reach to the phone at your bedside and as you try to dial those three digits you never hoped to dial for your family you realize… 911! No Dial Tone! Frantically you check the cords. Everything is plugged in. You rush to the phone in the kitchen, the older one that isn’t cordless and doesn’t have a plug in power adapter. Not only is there no dial tone, there is no light on the dial, and it is strangely dead to your ear. Normally there is a faint echo of your breath.

Luckily you have a cellphone charging on the counter and you can call for an ambulance. You give the operator your address describe the problem and while trying to explain why you aren’t using your regular phone they explain that you aren’t the first — Someone has ripped out a chunk of phone line and stolen it during the night rendering a whole suburban neighbourhood without telephone or internet service. Cable theft

It is something that perhaps you might have expect out in the country but this is something happening in the city and though perhaps you, your friends, your parents, grandparents and aunt Sue have cellphones, many people don’t. These sorts of thefts are becoming more common. Thefts from constructions sites of copper piping and household wiring as well as other metal household components — all sold for scrap metal prices to scrap yards. Recently a whole block in Vancouver had the front garden gates stolen at night as residents slept! At another time extreme damage was done to a charity when water pipe was stolen resulting in flooding and water damage to the offices and stored supplies.

A heap of scrap metal.

A heap of scrap metal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, when telephone lines are cut to a subdivision, then lives are immediately at stake. No telephone means no protection by Fire, Police, or Ambulance. No paramedics will be coming to resuscitate heart attack victims, no utility company to come for a downed power-line — though the utility company would probably notice through other means.

A few times a year now, we hear of someone found electrocuted when they tried stealing metal at a power station — unsuccessfully. Sometimes they are successful of course.

In the “wild west” they used to hang horse thieves. The reason for that extreme form of punishment was that to steal a man’s horse could too often mean that you were stranding them under circumstance that could lead to their death. Perhaps metal theft, in particular theft of power lines, telephone lines, or other utility equipment that renders that utility inoperable should have a commensurate penalty to the potential loss — that being endangerment of human life. I am not speaking of the inconvenience of not being able to surf the web or gossip with your neighbour or watching TV, but being denied access to emergency services.

Something has to be done.

We might start with increased penalties to repel crime and perhaps prohibit the buying and selling of scrap metal except by licensed tradespeople. Increased penalties might deter some, but licensing mostly only deters the honest person and is a complication for the honest trades-person — like a truck mechanic trying to dispose of worn out brake drums once or twice a year.

Still… when the phone falls silent, even in the City of Surrey, the second largest city in British Columbia

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