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Municipal risk management case study: Will Burtenshaw reflects on his 16+ year AUMA career through floods, fires and more

April 2, 2020

During our current uncertain times, risk management seems more top of mind than ever before. We chatted with Will Burtenshaw, AUMA’s retiring Senior Director of Risk and Claims, about some of the challenges he has stewarded over the years on behalf of AUMA members and clients, and how through pandemics, train derailments, fires and more, AUMA continues to advocate and build responsive resources to help.

Risk management evolution in Alberta

Over the years, Will witnessed many large losses in municipalities, including large structure fires and train derailments. “The derailment at Wabamun Lake became a focal point for many of us, including those in provincial and local governments. We realized that disaster could strike in Alberta, and that preparation was critical. I was invited to be part of a task force discussing disaster management. This eventually became what is now known as the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA).”

Front lines during 2011 fire in Slave Lake

One of the most memorable events in Will’s career occurred when a wildfire hit Slave Lake. In the wake of an unexpected evacuation, Will was unable to reach many clients in the area.

As it turned out, AUMA’s adjusters (and Will) were some of the first allowed back into the town after the wildfire. “It was surreal,” remembered Will. “Despite the smoke and fire damage to other structures, the only damage the municipal infrastructure had suffered was the newly-built town hall. Since the plans were fresh and the contractors were available, AUMA helped get the claim processed quickly, and we helped get it rebuilt in a little over a year.”

Supporting our members through floods and fires

Just two short years later, Will and the AUMA Insurance and Risk team were again on the ground supporting municipalities through the extensive flooding that hit southern Alberta in 2013. “The situation in Canmore, Cochrane, Calgary, and High River was extreme,” recalled Will.

Getting those claims resolved was a marathon, not a sprint. Some municipalities in this area had every town building affected by water damage. AUMA staff worked with some clients for up to three years as part of our commitment to serve communities, not shareholders, and to find ways to support claims being paid.

Our commitment to members was demonstrated again in 2016, when fires threatened Fort McMurray. “Once the immediate danger was over, AUMA staff were allowed back in before the public. Entire neighbourhoods were gone. I came away with so much respect for the municipal leaders in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo – they were tireless champions of their community during that time of incredible adversity.”

Looking back on a fulfilling risk management career

As Will prepares for a well-deserved retirement, he remains passionate about being with members, whether in workshops or during site visits.

“Municipalities face unique challenges and risks due to the large scope of services, programs, and infrastructure they provide, and the critical role they play in the wellbeing of residents. It’s been my pleasure, and extremely rewarding, to have that member focus over the course of my career. I know our members will continue to be in great hands at AUMA through these extraordinary times, since we’ll always continue to help manage risk as we head into an ever-evolving insurance and risk landscape for ourselves and our members.”

Our Insurance & Risk Services provide access to coverages that aren’t easily achieved and that are tailored to fit municipal needs. We look for ways to adapt and meet your changing needs, we find ways to pay claims, and we are proud to be your partner in risk management.