If you've lived in Maine for several years, chances are you have already felt the tremors of a mild to moderate earthquake. From Bangor to Augusta and Portland to Westbrook, earthquakes have struck this region since people began settling the state. Do you have earthquake insurance should an earthquake crack your walls or topple your chimney? Before you search for quotes on an earthquake insurance policy, however, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Earthquakes Are for Californians, Not Maine Residents, Right?
The first recorded earthquake centered in Maine occurred May 22, 1817. The probable focus was in the central portion, as it was widely felt throughout the state and in New Brunswick. As early as June 11, 1638, a strong earthquake in the St. Lawrence Valley region, near Trois Rivieres, Quebec, was reported felt throughout all the English plantations.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, earthquakes aren't out of the ordinary for New England, where one or two minor earthquakes can be felt somewhere every year.
The Earthquake Education Center at Charleston Southern University claims there is a 40 to 60 percent chance of a major earthquake somewhere in the eastern United States in the next 20 years.
Although most of these events may rattle ME residents, damage reports tend to be minor. However, if you live in an older home, damage caused by the rumbling and tumbling of fault lines can be severe and cost you thousands of dollars in repairs.
Does Your Homeowners Policy Cover All Damages?
Unfortunately, it does not. Earthquakes, much like floods, require specialized insurance. Most Maine insurance companies will offer you earthquake insurance as an endorsement (or extra insurance) to your homeowners policy.
You may want to purchase earthquake insurance from the same company that provides your home insurance, from a specialized earthquake insurance provider or from an independent organization.
How Can You Protect Your Property?
Even the most well prepared Maine residents can experience damage or injury due to a major earthquake. Aside from purchasing extra liability insurance protection through an earthquake insurance policy, there are several steps residents can take to be better prepared:
- Bolt bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs. Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects. During an earthquake, these items can fall over, causing damage or injury.
- Secure items that might fall (televisions, books, computers, etc.). Falling items can cause damage or injury.
- Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. The contents of cabinets can shift during the shaking of an earthquake. Latches will prevent cabinets from flying open and contents from falling out.
- Move large or heavy objects and fragile items (glass or china) to lower shelves. There will be less damage and less chance of injury if these items are on lower shelves.
- Store breakable items, such as bottled foods, glass and china, in low, closed cabinets with latches. Latches will help keep contents of cabinets inside.
- Store weedkillers, pesticides and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches, on bottom shelves. Chemical products will be less likely to create hazardous situations from lower, confined locations.
- Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit. Earthquakes can knock things off walls, causing damage or injury.
- Strap the water heater to wall studs. The water heater may be your best source of drinkable water following an earthquake. Protect it from damage and leaks.
- Bolt down any gas appliances. After an earthquake, broken gas lines frequently create fire hazards.
- Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings will be less likely to break.
- Repair any deep cracks in ceilings and foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects. Earthquakes can turn cracks into ruptures and make smaller problems bigger.
What Does Earthquake Insurance Cover?
An earthquake insurance policy will cover costs associated with damage to your Maine property from the following:
- Cracked walls or foundations
- Personal property destroyed by structural damage
- Broken windows
- Toppled chimneys
An earthquake endorsement generally excludes damage or loss from floods and tidal waves, even when an earthquake causes the damage or loss. 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.
Is Earthquake Insurance Worth it?
Even if your house survived the last big quake that struck Maine, scientists often discover new, unknown faults only after a new shaker rattles your town. Surviving the last quake doesn't mean you're immune from the next.
Even if you built your home on bedrock and bolted it to the foundation, you won't necessarily escape the damage of a large quake; the quake can still destroy outdoor walls, pools and windows. Repairs involving engineering can run up to $50,000.
If you don't have that kind of cash stuffed under your mattress, purchasing the extra coverage of an earthquake policy may be a good idea.
How Much Does Earthquake Insurance Cost?
Earthquake coverage can be expensive, particularly in the areas where you are most likely to need it. In areas like Virginia and the Midwest, where quakes are rare, you can get coverage for as little as 50 cents per $1,000 in coverage or roughly $250 annually for $500,000 in coverage. But the cost soars on the West Coast where it can cost $15 per $1,000 in coverage or roughly $7,500 for a $500,000 policy. For residents of Maine, where earthquakes pose a moderate risk, coverage costs somewhere in between, and it depends on the type of policy you choose.
Most Maine residents can pick a $500 deductible or a $2,500 deductible or something in the middle. A higher deductible will land you a lower annual premium payment. With traditional homeowners insurance, you can make sure you never set your deductible at an amount that would be unaffordable when you have a claim.
Start Saving on Earthquake Insurance
Earthquakes come without warning. The damage they inflict can be quite severe. A knowledgeable Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent can help you find affordable earthquake coverage. Don't let one unexpected event threaten your financial future.
Contact a local agent for your earthquake insurance quotes.