Prepare for the Unexpected with Tsunami Insurance
In 2011, countless Americans were glued to images of a devastating tsunami in Japan that flashed across their T.V. screens. Many were reminded of the even more destructive tsunami that struck Indonesia and thirteen other countries in 2004. If you are one of the millions of Americans who live near the coastline, these events may have caused you to give more thought to your preparedness for flooding, tidal waves and tsunamis. Can you even get tsunami insurance coverage for such a catastrophe?
- Since 1980, there have been 20 tsunamis worldwide
- In the last 205 years, a total of 24 tsunamis have caused damage to the United States and its territories
- The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami affected nearly 3 million people, and resulted in more than 230,000 deaths and $14 billion in damages
- The 1964 Good Friday Tsunami was the worst to ever hit the United States, causing more than $2 billion in damages (adjusted for inflation) and 122 deaths in Alaska, Oregon and California.
What Causes a Tsunami?
Tsunamis are usually formed when powerful earthquakes occur underneath the ocean floor. The force generated by these quakes pushes large volumes of water to the surface, creating enormous seismic waves that form walls of water that wash inland in a destructive tidal wave.
More rarely, tsunamis can be caused by the eruption of underwater volcanos or landslides or other disruptions of the earth’s oceanic floor. A major meteor striking the ocean could cause a tsunami as well.
Should I Be Worried About a Tsunami?
Most Americans do not live close enough to the ocean to be affected by a tsunami. The probability of a tsunami forming in the Atlantic Ocean is low, although not impossible. Residents of the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii, on the other hand, have a much greater likelihood of experiencing a tsunami in their lifetimes.
Those that live within ten miles of the Pacific coastline should be prepared to evacuate their homes in the event of a tsunami warning. A tsunami is unlikely to move more than about five miles inland, though the 2011 tsunami in Japan extended nine miles inland. Coastal residents could be affected by rising waters and flooding.
Do My Current Insurance Policies Cover Tsunami Damage?
Like many other natural disasters, homeowners insurance policies will typically not provide coverage for damage caused by tsunamis or resulting flooding. If you own a boat, whether or not your boat insurance will cover damage caused by a tsunami is entirely dependent on your policy and how much comprehensive coverage you have purchased.
Also, despite popular belief, most earthquake insurance policies will not cover tsunami damage, even though the tsunami may technically be the result of an earthquake. Your earthquake insurance may cover damages caused by mudslides and mudflow in the aftermath of the tsunami, but if the bulk of damage is caused by floodwaters, your earthquake coverage will likely not help you.
The only way to obtain tsunami insurance is through the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP. This program provides coverage for damage caused by flooding, and is available through independent agents in the Trusted Choice network nationwide.
If you have already purchased flood insurance for your home, you will likely be protected from the damages a tsunami might bring. To ensure that you have this coverage, review your current policy or call your insurer for confirmation. If you do not have a flood insurance policy and feel that the location of your home places you at an increased risk of tsunami damage, it might be time to research insurance agents in your area who can help you secure a flood insurance policy.
What Is the National Flood Insurance Program?
The NFIP is a federally-backed insurance plan that provides assistance to those suffering devastating loss caused by flooding events, including tsunamis. This program was started in the 1960s and it provides an appealing alternative to the low-interest disaster-assistance loans provided by FEMA following a catastrophe.
What Does Tsunami Flood Insurance Cover?
Flood insurance can provide coverage for structural damage to your home, damages to appliances normally kept in basements, and damages to personal property kept in above-ground floors of your home. It will also cover damage from storm surges that occur during a hurricane or tsunami.
You should be aware that flood insurance does have coverage limits. For example, the most compensation you can receive to repair or restore the structure of your home is $250,000; contents coverage is limited to $100,000. For businesses, the structure and contents coverage amounts are each limited to $500,000. If you need additional funds to rebuild, you may need to rely on the low-interest loans offered by FEMA.
Is Tsunami Insurance Expensive?
The price of your tsunami insurance policy is mostly determined by your risk of flood damage. If you live in a designated flood zone, your policy will be more expensive than if you live on top of a hill. Overall, however, flood insurance is not extremely expensive.
Tips for Staying Safe during a Tsunami
Hopefully, you will never experience a tsunami, but if you live in an at-risk area, heed the following safety tips:
- Have an evacuation plan in place that includes a designated meeting location if family members should become separated.
- If you are visiting or vacationing in a place that has a high tsunami risk, be sure to check with your hosts or hotel staff about evacuation procedures.
- Remain aware of tsunami threats and warnings. If a warning is issued or evacuation is recommended, don’t wait.
- If you are on a beach and feel the earth rumbling, head to higher ground immediately. Do not wait for an evacuation notice.
- Never stay near shore to watch a tsunami come in.
- After the first waves hit, do not return to your home until authorities say it is safe to do so. Earthquake after-shocks can create additional waves.
- If your home has been damaged, re-enter it with extreme caution.
Tsunami Coverage: The Bottom Line
Taking steps now to be prepared for disaster can result in less stress and financial devastation later. Having insurance policies in place for any possible catastrophe is a wise investment in your peace of mind.
It's a good idea to research the coverage options you have. This might mean looking up some consumer reports on reputable companies, checking out flood maps from FEMA, and also referencing insurance rating agencies like AM Best to make sure that every insurer you're considering is highly rated. In the end you'll always get the best deal by reviewing at least 3 quotes before you buy; comparing like coverage options will give you a good idea of what the coverage you need is worth.
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