No state has more evidence of the power of geological forces than Arizona. While the Grand Canyon shows the awesome ability of glacially slow geological forces of running water to carve deep crevasses, it has also faced the abrupt and unexpected affects of shifting tectonic plates and the trembling results of earthquakes. From the incredibly slow to the sudden, Arizona faces all types of natural geological wonders. Does your insurance policy cover these events?
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Before you search for quotes on earthquake insurance, there are several factors to consider.
A History of Earthquakes in Arizona
According to the United States Geological Survey:
- The earliest documents which describe Arizona earthquakes were those recorded at Fort Yuma, located in the 1800s on the California side of the Colorado River. Shocks which probably centered in the Imperial Valley of California, or in Mexico, have been noted there since late 1852.
- In the past century or more, 14 tremors of intensity V to VII have centered within Arizona's borders, of which 12 were reported after Arizona entered the Union in February 1912.
- Probably the most famous earthquake in this region occurred in 1887 near Bavispe, Mexico, about 190 miles southeast of Tucson. From Guaymas to Nogales, Mexico, Benson and Tucson, Arizona, and in towns as far distant as Albuquerque, New Mexico, water in tanks spilled over, buildings cracked, chimneys were toppled, and railroad cars were set in motion.
- The first damaging earthquake known to have centered within Arizona's borders occurred on January 25, 1906, the year of the great San Francisco earthquake, and of a damaging series of shocks at Socorro, New Mexico. The shock was violent at Flagstaff, about 115 miles north of Phoenix.
- On January 16, 1950, a strong earthquake in Apache County left several cracks in the ground as it rumbled through the small town of Ganado. The cracks, one-half inch wide and up to 12 feet long, extended in a north-south direction near the Ganado trading post.
- 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.
What is Earthquake Insurance?
Earthquake insurance is a form of property insurance that pays the policyholder in the event of an earthquake that causes damage to the property. Most ordinary Arizona homeowners insurance policies do not cover earthquake loss.
Too many residents in earthquake-affected areas think they could rely on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds should their home or business be significantly damaged or destroyed by tremors. Affected homeowners may qualify for low-interest loans offered by FEMA through the Small Business Administration. But these loans are not free money; homeowners are obligated to pay them back, and they are entered in your personal net worth statement as a liability, offsetting an equal amount of assets.
With earthquake insurance, you are not obligated to repay the reimbursement you receive for covered damages.
How Can I Prepare for an Earthquake in Arizona?
With advances in seismic monitoring equipment, today we have more warnings of advancing earthquakes and tremors. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate your loss long before the next quake strikes Arizona.
- Make sure your water heater, gas appliances, and other fixtures are fastened securely.
- Check that bookcases and furniture are secure and fastened to walls.
- Create a family emergency plan that all family members know, including designation of a meeting place outside the home where family members can gather once the danger has passed.
- Designate a distant relative or friend who can serve as a point of contact and communication for you and your family members if you get separated.
- Plan ahead. Keep flashlights, batteries, and candles on hand. Have a portable radio.
- Be sure everyone in your house knows how to turn off utilities (electricity, water, and gas).
- When shopping for earthquake insurance, ask the Arizona company to help you identify possible repairs and other improvements that will make your home safer and minimize damage.
What Can I Do During an Earthquake in Arizona?
If you are inside when an earthquake hits Arizona, stay inside and get under a heavy table or desk. Stay away from windows. Do not evacuate the building unless emergency personnel direct you to leave.
If you are outside, get away from buildings and power lines, and remember that stone and masonry facings can break loose and fall away from upper parts of buildings.
If you are in a car, stop safely away from structures, large trees, power lines, and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle.
Also keep in mind:
- Don’t use candles until gas lines are checked. Also, check throughout your home before you use certain utilities, such as water and electric, sewage connections, and even chimneys.
- Don’t tie up phone lines except to report emergencies.
- Be prepared. Remember that you will need food and water, even for the short term. Keep your family together and stay alert for aftershocks.
What Does Arizona Earthquake Insurance Cover?
Earthquake insurance provides coverage if your home is damaged by an earthquake. Standard homeowner and renters policies will not cover earthquake damage. Earthquake insurance is a separate endorsement you must buy and add to your homeowner or renters policy.
An earthquake endorsement generally excludes damages or losses from floods and tidal waves – even when caused or compounded by an earthquake. However, if you experience a loss due to a landslide, settlement, mudflow, or the rising, sinking and contracting of earth, your endorsement may cover it if the damage resulted from an earthquake.
There are several options to consider when purchasing earthquake insurance from Arizona insurance providers, including:
- Does the policy cover only your home? Are other structures, such as garages, also included?
- Will your policy pay for the contents of your home and for additional living expenses if your home is badly damaged or destroyed?
- Are there any exclusions or limitations to coverage?
- What deductible must you pay before the insurance kicks in?
Deductibles for earthquake endorsements are often much higher than for your traditional homeowners insurance policy.
What Will My Earthquake Insurance Quote Look Like?
Fortunately, Arizona is not California, where earthquake endorsement quotes are the highest, as that state experiences the most seismic activity.
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 and find lower quotes. 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 quotes 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.
Be sure to compare several quotes from a variety of Arizona insurance providers, as deductibles for earthquake endorsements can cary widely -- anywhere from twp percent of the home's value, up to 20 percent. A higher deductible will yield lower quotes, but you want to be sure the deductible you choose is one that you could afford to pay should you need to file a claim.
Where Can I Find Earthquake Insurance in Arizona?
The last thing you want to worry about as you lead your family to safety during an earthquake is whether or not your insurance policy provides sufficient coverage for the damage occurring around you.
Knowledgeable, independent insurance agents on the Trusted Choice network are always available to answer your questions, suggest coverage options, and even assist you in filing a claim. These agents have years of experience working with Arizona insurance companies, enabling them to find you several quotes with only the best coverage at the most affordable rates. Contact a Trusted Choice agent near you to find out how you can find an earthquake insurance endorsement that fits your needs and budget.