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Risk: Natural Hazards and Your Business

How can you classify natural hazards and how do different North American communities compare? We can help.

There are no hurricane evacuation route signs to be seen anywhere in Waterloo, but we do get the occasional snow day now and then.

This entry in our “Understand the Risk” series digs into the data to see how our community stacks up against other cities when it comes to flooding, fires and other natural disasters.

This article is part of our “Understand the Risk” series, which looks at business risk with comparative data. Articles in this series cover natural hazards, infrastructure, economic competitiveness, stability and freedom, talent and workforce and health.

What are natural hazards?

Natural hazards is a catch-all term that encompasses any disruption the natural world can throw at a business. Weather risks are expected and seasonal – do you get monsoon-like rain every spring? Is there routine flooding? Natural disasters are lower probability, but with the potential to have a much higher impact on the bottom line – can hurricanes shut down your business? Are you on a fault line that increases potential for disruptive earthquakes or tremors? Climate disturbances are those hazards that result from climate change. They are becoming more common and severe – forest fires in California, for example, or hurricanes in Texas – and they represent high-impact hazards that have the potential to be recurring.

Here’s how Waterloo compares to other communities in North America:

Natural Hazards Chart



When you think of Canada, you think snow – and we get our fair share. Thankfully, our location in Southwestern Ontario between Detroit, MI, and Buffalo, NY, means avoiding Windsor, London, or Niagara’s heavy lake-effect snow. Montreal isn’t so lucky – it has cold and very snowy winters.

Any area near significant waterways or bodies of water has some flood risk. In Waterloo, the Grand River Conservation Authority manages the watershed areas around the Grand River and works to minimize property damage from flooding and erosion. There is seasonal flooding along the banks of the Grand River, but far less severe than other areas of Canada such as Montreal, and it generally doesn’t threaten residential, commercial or industrial development.

Being landlocked also means there is no risk of coastal flooding. Regardless of the weather, business keeps moving here!

Natural disasters

Choosing a Canadian location offers a lower risk from natural disasters than other North American locations in Mexico or the United States. We aren’t near open oceans, on fault lines or near mountains, and that comes with advantages – Waterloo ranks low risk to very low risk for hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides.

While often compared to Silicon Valley, Waterloo is far more sheltered from natural disasters, which makes us the better choice for expansion or relocation. The temperate summer weather also offers enjoyable patio weather without the threat of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

Climate disturbances

Planning an expansion or relocation should include looking at business risks from climate change – an issue that will grow in importance as climate-related issues become more frequent and severe. While no one can predict what climate issues might occur in the future, Waterloo’s risk of extreme heat and water scarcity are much lower when compared to other similar size markets. We also have near-zero risk of forest fires – nothing like California, for example.

Want to learn more right now?

We offer in-depth Waterloo Region Risk Profiles for manufacturing and tech.