Most of Missouri's earthquake activity has been concentrated in the southeast corner of the state, which lies within the New Madrid seismic zone. Although the incidents of earthquakes in this region are sporadic, the situation can quickly become deadly and devastating, especially for those without earthquake insurance. Before looking for quotes on policies to protect your home and valuables from the type of catastrophic losses earthquakes can cause, there are a few things to keep in mind.
According to the United States Geological Survey, there is ample geologic evidence that the New Madrid seismic zone has had a long history of activity. The first written account of an earthquake in the region was by a French missionary on a voyage down the Mississippi River. He reported feeling a distinct tremor on Christmas Day, 1699, while camped in the area of what is now Memphis, Tennessee.
The November 9, 1968, earthquake centered in southern Illinois was the strongest in the central United States since 1895. The magnitude 5.5 shock caused moderate damage to chimneys and walls in Hermann, St. Charles, St. Louis and Sikeston, Missouri. The felt areas include all or portions of 23 states.
The most recent, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake, struck in the early hours of Feb. 21, 2012, in the southeast corner Missouri, waking up residents in as many as 12 other surrounding states. Windows were shattered, and homeowners watched as their belongings fell from their walls and shelves.
St. Louis University has a system of warnings for residents when it comes to earthquakes. SLU's seismic network, supported through a cooperative agreement with the United States Geological Survey, provides a stream of calibrated digital seismic data as a component of the Advanced National Seismic System.
The seismic network uses two types of sensors: acceleration and broadband. The difference is that the first is a low sensitivity instrument designed to capture very large earthquake motions on scale, while the second provides on-scale recordings of small local and large distance earthquakes.
The university is there to help people before an event such as an earthquake, but it's important that you have protection after the fact.
While some people may think of California when considering earthquakes, Missouri is an area that could experience large-scale earthquakes. Californians indeed buy the most earthquake insurance, but Missouri ranks third among all states in total premium volume, at more than $88 million.
Earthquake coverage is not included in most homeowners insurance policies. You must purchase the coverage separately, as an "endorsement." This extra insurance requires that the earthquake be the direct cause of damage to the property. In many instances, natural disasters trigger other events that may also damage property. One example is earthquakes causing bodies of water to produce waves, resulting in flooding.
Earthquake coverage pays for damage caused by the shaking and cracking that can damage homes, which can cost thousands of dollars and even render the home unlivable. Other insurance coverage may also cover damage indirectly caused by earthquakes. The standard portion of homeowners policies generally covers fire and water damage due to burst gas and water pipes, even though a quake may have caused the damage. The comprehensive portion of auto policies covers earthquake damage to vehicles.
It's important to find out what your homeowners and automobile policies cover so that you can obtain the right earthquake policy endorsement.
According to the Missouri Department of Insurance, earthquake coverage has declined in St. Louis during the past decade. In St. Louis County, 62 percent of homes had coverage in 2009, down from 73 percent in 2002. In St. Charles County, coverage dropped to 66 percent from 77 percent. In the city of St. Louis, it fell to 36 percent from 48 percent.
Why? The cost of coverage has risen substantially over the years, but it's still inexpensive. Earthquake coverage averages $153 a year in St. Louis County, $161 in St. Louis, $87 in Jefferson County and $99 in St. Charles County.
Earthquake insurance typically features two high deductibles. Rather than a dollar amount, it's a percentage of the cost of rebuilding the home and a separate deductible for the home's contents.
Deductibles of 10 to 15 percent are common. For example, with a 15 percent deductible, the owner of a $200,000 home could expect to pay up to $30,000 in deductibles for damage to the dwelling before receiving any earthquake insurance policy benefit.
The material used to build the home can also determine premiums or even your home's insurability. For instance, rates may be cheaper for wood-frame homes, which withstand tremors better than homes made of masonry such as brick and stone. Single-story homes may also receive better rates as they tend to sustain less damage from an earthquake. The age of the home can also affect premiums.
This extra liability insurance coverage in high-risk areas is much more expensive than a policy for a location that has never experienced a sizable earthquake. Where you live will also determine the price of your policy.
It's difficult to worry much about earthquakes in Missouri. The U.S. Geological Service says the chance of an 1812-style mega-quake in the next 50 years is about 7 to 10 percent. However, the chance of a lesser quake, which might crack walls and flatten St. Louis chimneys, is 25 to 40 percent. Then again, the chance of your house burning down is small as well. But you wouldn't go without fire insurance. The intent of insurance is to protect you from unlikely events that would otherwise leave you homeless or broke. An earthquake could do that.
The best way to find affordable Missouri earthquake insurance is to contact a knowledgeable, independent Trusted Choice® network agent who can give you quotes on your new policy.