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Homeowners falling behind growing threat of climate-related catastrophes: study

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Canadians aren’t keeping up with the need to protect their homes against catastrophic events made more common by climate change, says a coast-to-coast study from the University of Waterloo.

“Homeowners can do a lot themselves to reduce risk of flooding,” said Natalia Moudrak, study co-author and researcher at the university’s climate adaptation centre.

Climatologists have long warned that extreme weather, including floods, will become more common as temperatures warm.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada reports that insurance payouts from extreme weather have more than doubled every five to 10 years since the 1980s.

The Waterloo study reports that property and casualty payouts averaged about $405 million a year from 1983 to 2008. Since then, payouts have more than quadrupled to $1.8 billion, mostly from flooding.

That’s not inflated by rising real estate values.

“All of this data is corrected for inflation and it’s corrected for wealth creation,” said co-author David Feltmate Thursday. “This is an actual increase in the amount of money being paid out.”

At the same time, the study found a large number of Canadians are vulnerable to flooding. It concluded about 1.7 million households representing about 20 per cent of Canada’s population are at risk.

Repairs can be expensive. The average cost to homeowners for flood damage in the Greater Toronto Area is estimated at $43,000.

And for some, insurance is out of reach.

“Increasingly,” said Feltmate, “people cannot get insurance for their homes because they have experienced one or more floods or they live in an area that’s designated high-risk and the premiums that the insurers would have to charge are off the charts.”

At the same time, householders aren’t doing everything they can to protect themselves and their homes — even when subsidies are available for measures such as sump pumps.

“The uptake for these subsidies is quite low,” said Moudrak. “On average across Canada, the uptake on these subsidies is below 10 per cent, even in the really bad flood-prone areas.”

That’s partly because many of the programs are confusing and difficult to apply for, said Feltmate, although he added municipalities are fixing those problems.

The report points out easy and inexpensive ways to make homes more floodproof.

Installing a sump pump with backup power is one of the best moves, it says. Backwater valves can prevent nasty backflows from overloaded sewer systems from surging into basements.

The report recommends walking around a house during a rain to see how and where water is draining, then regrading areas where moisture pools near foundations. And leaves should be prevented from plugging street drains.

“Homeowners need to take a more active role in protecting themselves,” Moudrak said.

The report also looks at municipalities. Feltmate said communities are taking steps to adapt to new weather coming with a shifting climate, but the rate of change is outpacing efforts.

“We have an adaptation deficit growing in Canada right now,” he said.

Money laid out ahead of time pays off, said Feltmate. The study suggests every dollar spent on preparing for a flood or other weather catastrophe saves between $3 and $12 in cleanup costs.

“It’s a lot cheaper not to have the problem,” he said.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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