The devastating forest fires in the Fort McMurray area have captured attention around the world. Here at the ASC, we are deeply touched by the devastation. Alberta is the energy centre of Canada, and Fort McMurray and its citizens contribute greatly to our economy.
After the fires began, reports of an efficient and orderly evacuation in a dangerous situation, plus the generosity and organization of our oil and gas companies and their employees, have been nothing short of inspirational. We are once again reminded of the charitable spirit and resilience of Albertans. Around the province, and beyond, people are rallying to support the community. This will be essential to the victims, and eventually to rebuilding the area.
Unfortunately, these types of disasters also attract those looking to profit from the situation. Here are some tips on how to help yourself (and others) without falling victim.
If you, friends or family members are among those affected:
- Once you’re safe and settled in your temporary lodging, ensure that you are registered with the Red Cross.
- Both the Government of Alberta and the Red Cross are offering immediate financial support.
- Gather all the information about your finances (assets, investments, insurance, loans, etc.) into one place. If you’ve lost or no longer have access to this documentation, find someone that you know can be trusted that can help you collect it (e.g. you can contact your financial institutions or investment professional). Many banks and credit unions have established toll-free emergency lines for Fort McMurray-based clients.
- Contact your insurance agent. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has a webpage specifically addressing the wildfire.
- Don’t rush into any decisions about your or your family’s financial future, even if you have suffered a large financial loss such as a business or home. While you may feel the pressure to act quickly, rushed decisions are less-informed decisions, especially when emotions are running high.
- If you must make a big decision right away, consider whether there is a trusted third party that can help you weigh pros and cons if you need advice, or are having difficulty make decisions for yourself.
For those wanting to donate or help others:
- Most emergency organizations are reporting that cash, rather than physical donations, is best. If you’re planning to donate, ensure your contributions are used as you intend. Do some quick research on the individuals, charities or businesses you are considering becoming involved with. Use the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Charities Listings to see if a charity is registered – this is particularly important for those who wish to receive a tax receipt for their donation.
- Be cautious regarding online (websites, emails, and social media) and over-the-phone requests for help. Well-meaning people can fall prey to scams posing as charities.
- Once the crisis has passed, if you are considering making an investment into rebuilding infrastructure or housing, check to see if the requests are coming from a legitimate source. If it sounds like an investment or a security, check to see if the person or organization is registered via the National Registration Search and/or contact our Public Inquiries Office toll free 1-877-355-4488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our sympathies to all those affected.
Alberta Government Emergency Updates
Charity Law Information Program
Explaining crowdfunding in Alberta
Competition Bureau on Fort McMurray scams