Earthquakes are popular subjects for Hollywood moviemakers, and California is well-known for earthquake activity. Californians, however, aren’t the only Americans that need to be prepared for the possibility of damage caused by earthquakes. Depending on where you live, earthquake insurance might be an option worth considering.
How Common Are Earthquakes?
- There were more than 21,000 earthquakes of magnitude 3.5 or greater in the U.S. between 1974 and 2003.
- In all, 42 states reported at least one earthquake event during that time-period
- The number of earthquakes in the U.S. has increased dramatically since 2001; in 2000, there were 2,342 earthquakes while in 2010 there were a staggering 8,496.
- Alaska and California accounted for 80% of the seismic activity in the U.S; Hawaii and Nevada are third and fourth, accounting for 11% combined.
What Does Earthquake Insurance Cover?
Earthquakes are generally not covered by typical homeowners insurance policies. Many insurance carriers offer riders to provide some level of earthquake insurance to homeowners.
This coverage usually comes with a high deductible, but will provide substantial coverage in the event that your home is destroyed as a result of a significant seismic event. Earthquake insurance includes coverage for damage to the foundation or basement, the overall structure of the home and damage to the interior of the home.
However, the coverage offered by different policies may vary. For example, some policies will cover accessory structures such as garages, while others cover damage only to the home. Also, some of the more comprehensive plans will provide coverage for personal belongings in your home.
Preparing for an Earthquake
It wasn’t very long ago that all earthquakes came without warning. As technology has advanced and seismic measurement equipment has become more reliable, there is usually some warning given to residents when an earthquake is imminent. Because of this, communities can now prepare for this natural disaster.
People who live in earthquake-risk areas should prepare an emergency kit and have it on hand at all times. This should include a radio, flashlights and batteries, a first-aid kit and enough pre-packaged food and water to last at least 72 hours.
Make certain that breakable and flammable items are stored in low, closed cupboards with latches and that heavy items are moved close to the ground or are firmly secured. The most secure locations in your home are underneath a sturdy table or pressed firmly against an interior wall away from windows and doors. Perform occasional earthquake drills with your family, reminding everyone to drop, cover and hold on.
Safety Tips During and After an Earthquake
If you are indoors during an earthquake, stay low to the ground away from large objects that may break or fall on you. Do not use elevators or attempt to leave the building; this is the most common cause of injuries during earthquakes. Brace yourself until the shaking stops.
If you find yourself covered in debris, cover your nose and mouth with a cloth or handkerchief. Do not light a match; fire is the most common problem following earthquakes. Search for and extinguish any flames before they are out of control. If you smell gas or any strong chemical odors, leave the area immediately.
As you prepare to protect yourself from the dangers of earthquakes, you may want some help protecting your finances from the cost of damage.
Is Earthquake Insurance Expensive?
Earthquake insurance may seem costly at first, but because your home is probably your biggest investment, protection from natural disasters is necessary. Homes that are located directly over or near a known fault line have the highest risk of damage, and policies for these homeowners often come with high premiums. There are ways that these homeowners can reduce their costs, however.
Homes that are made of wood generally cost less to insure than those made of brick. This is because wood-constructed homes are more flexible and can better withstand the jarring motions caused by an earthquake. Homeowners can often receive lower premiums by retrofitting their homes to make them better able to withstand an earthquake. This can be done by securing the structure to the foundation and installing a sprinkler system in the home.
Should I Get an Earthquake Insurance Quote?
Homes in high-risk areas are not the only ones that face the potential disaster due to an earthquake. If your state has seismic activity or is one of the 42 states that have had an earthquake recorded in the last 30 years, there is at least some risk of damage to your home.
A surprising number of people in high-risk areas do not have earthquake insurance. California has a lot of seismic activity, but only 12% of its residents carry earthquake insurance coverage. Many people discover too late that their homeowners insurance policy will not cover earthquake damage; if the earthquake is severe, you could be financially devastated by damages.
It's a good idea to research the risk of earthquakes in your area. When it comes to finding insurance coverage to protect your property, a little legwork finding quotes from local agencies could really pay off in the face of a catastrophe. Make sure you're working with highly-rated companies that use best practices and will look out for your needs. You can check consumer reviews of insurers before you request quotes. Finally, it's a good idea to look at a few different quotes before you buy. Even as little as three quotes for coverage can give you an idea of what will work best for your budget and your risks.