Earthquake Insurance – Do I need it?
Should I buy earthquake insurance? This is a question we get asked all the time. The truth is no one knows if or when the Northwest will experience an earthquake and at what magnitude. The answer may be different from one individual to the next and if you are unsure if additional earthquake insurance is right for you, you should consider the following points:
Know the potential
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is a good place to start. Here is a link to information on earthquakes in Oregon: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/states/?region=Oregon
From here you can see seismic maps by county, review historical earthquake data and learn about some of the science behind our geography. I particularly enjoy the ‘Learn’ tab. Have a disaster plan in place.
For Portland residents, the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management has interactive maps where you can enter your address to see nearby fault lines and other hazards. Here is a link to that site:
Get a few quotes
Earthquake coverage can get expensive! Some insurance companies will endorse earthquake coverage to your existing homeowners insurance. Other homeowner insurance companies sell earthquake coverage on a separate policy. Some companies only sell earthquake insurance and their policies are purchased on a stand-alone basis outside of your regular homeowners insurance. If your insurance company does not sell earthquake insurance or that coverage is too limited for your personal risk tolerance you may consider a specialty earthquake stand-alone policy.
Understand the coverage available
Some earthquake policies will only cover the structure of your home. Some can cover the personal property inside of your home. Some companies will pay for your additional living expenses if your home is damaged by an earthquake and you need substitute living expenses while your home is being repaired. Other policies can cover driveways, walkways, fences and other structures on your property. Also, earthquake deductibles are calculated differently from your regular hazard deductible. Ask what you are getting for your premium dollars.
Consider additional protection for your home
Homes can be retrofitted for earthquake which should reduce the potential for damage. Things like bolting the sill plate to the foundation and strapping your hot water tank to the wall can reduce your exposure. You may consider reinforcing load bearing walls or structural supports.
Read the policy
Like all insurance products, the coverage available can vary greatly between policy contracts. Always read the policy packet to stay informed on your coverage. If you have any questions ask your agent. Your agent should be available to explain any areas of coverage you may not understand.