Here's Why You Need Earthquake Insurance. Even If You Don’t Live in California

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Most residents living in southern Illinois experienced a shocking wake up call this morning.

At 4:30 a.m. local time an earthquake, which measured 5.4 on the Richter scale, hit the Midwestern area, centered six miles from West Salem, Illinois. Though the area rarely experiences earthquakes, it does lie on a fault line and in 1968 another magnitude 5.4 quake (the largest recorded in the region) caused damage in southern Illinois. However, after this morning's rupture there have been no reported injuries or significant property damage from the disaster.

Many people associate earthquakes in America with California, and while the state does experience the majority of the seismic activity in the country, this morning's quake is a reminder that earthquake preparedness is not just for left-coasters.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, about 5,000 quakes can be felt each year and since 1900, earthquakes have occurred in 39 states and have caused damage in all 50. (According to the U.S. Geological Survey, this morning's quake was felt in parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas and even shook buildings in central Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and St. Louis.) In addition to California, the primary earthquake areas are Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Alaska. There are also major fault lines in the St. Louis area, the Salt Lake City area, and the Charleston area.

But no matter where someone lives, earthquakes are not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance policies. Kip Diggs, a spokesperson for State Farm Insurance says that in order to be covered, homeowners must take out an endorsement on their existing homeowner’s insurance policy. You don’t have to live in prime earthquake country to get one. State Farm offers endorsements in 49 states. (In California, coverage must be procured from the California Earthquake Authority.) Allstate is another company that offers catastrophe coverage, which can include earthquakes (ALL).

Purchasing earthquake insurance is important for everyone because it covers both possessions and property. According to the Insurance Information Institute , earthquake insurance carries a deductible, which generally ranges between 2% and 20% of the replacement value of a house. However, states with higher than average risk of earthquakes often set minimum deductibles at around 10%. Diggs says that the cost of annual coverage ranges from an average low of $28 in North Dakota, to a high of $562 in Alaska.

The Insurance Information Institute also reports that older buildings generally cost more to insure than new ones. Wood frame structures generally benefit from lower rates than brick buildings because they tend to withstand quake stresses better. For example, a frame house in the Pacific Northwest might cost between one to three dollars per $1,000 worth of coverage, while it may cost less than fifty cents per $1,000 on the East coast. At the same time a brick home would cost approximately $3 to $15 dollars per $1,000 in the Pacific Northwest, while it would cost between 60 to 90 cents in New York. So, while the chance of an earthquake striking in these areas away from prime earthquake territory are low, so are the commensurate insurance rates.

(We could make a pun here about how at this rate there won’t be any aftershocks, but we won’t.)

 

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