Earthquake

Are you protected in the event of an earthquake? image via martinluff on Flickr

No matter where in the U.S. you live, there is a chance that there could be an earthquake in your area.  Of the 50 states, there are only 8 that haven’t experienced a single earthquake in the last 30 years according to the United State Geological Survey (USGS).  But even those states that have been safe the past thirty years are not immune from quakes or from damage caused by quakes occurring in adjoining states.  The simple fact is, if you live in the U.S., you run the risk that an earthquake will cause damage to your home.   If that happens, the only way that your insurance company will pay for the damage is if you have purchased additional coverage specific to earthquakes.

For those living in Hawaii, Alaska, and California, the three most seismically active states, earthquake insurance may seem to be a requirement.  However, even in those states, many homeowners haven’t purchased the extra coverage that would protect them from large losses.  According to the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), which provides the majority of earthquake coverage to California homeowners, only 12% have purchased earthquake coverage.   In Alaska, which is one of the most seismically active areas in the entire world, this number is only a little higher at about 33%.

Why Don’t Homeowners in High Risk Areas Buy Coverage

There are several reasons that even homeowners in Alaska and California don’t have earthquake insurance.  Unfortunately, one of the main reasons is that there are still people who believe that their homeowner’s policy will cover any losses resulting from an earthquake.  In almost every case, this simply isn’t true.  Other homeowners have made the conscious decision not to purchase this additional coverage because they feel the cost of the coverage plus the high deductible that is standard on earthquake policies makes the coverage unaffordable.  Still others believe that if there is a disaster, the government will be there to help make them whole and help them rebuild their house.

So, Why Do I Need it?

There are four reasons that every homeowner should look into purchasing an earthquake policy, even those who live in states that are not high on the earthquake risk list.

1.     If you live outside the big three, coverage is likely much less expensive than you think.

2.     Houses outside of the big three are rarely built with earthquake resilience in mind.  This means that if there is an earthquake, there is likely to be more damage to structures and property than there would be in California, Alaska, or Hawaii.

3.     It doesn’t take a catastrophic quake to cause catastrophic losses.

4.     Between 2001 and 2011, the USGS reports that there were more than 40,000 earthquakes in the U.S., almost 5,000 of which did not occur in the big three states.

5.     FEMA estimates that a major earthquake in a city with a large population could result in damages exceeding $200B.  Without insurance, you will be completely reliant on federal and state disaster relief for any assistance.  As the average award individual/family falls between $2,000 and $4,000 per family and the maximum grant is less than $15,000, you will be hard pressed to rebuild and recover.

Earthquake insurance is the kind of thing that it is easy to convince yourself you don’t need… until you do.  Then, it’s too late.

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Evacuation Plan

Do you have an evacuation plan in the event of a natural disaster? Image via YardSale on Flickr

No matter where you live, there is always the possibility that an emergency can arise and that disaster can strike.  The most important thing in any emergency is to preserve life, but after that, there are things that every homeowner should know that can help protect and preserve their home and property.  There is a reason that school children practice what they would do if there was a fire at the school.  Planning what to do in the event of a crisis and practicing carrying out that plan builds up muscle memory that can make all the difference when stress hormones and adrenaline make it difficult to think clearly.

Make sure you are prepared for whatever comes your way; here are four things to get you started.

1.     How to Shut Off Utilities

According to FEMA, homeowners may need to shut off the utilities following a disaster.  Ruptured gas lines and electrical sparks can cause fires or explosions and broken water mains can pollute the water stored in your house.  It is important that everyone in your household knows where the shut-off valves for all utilities are located and how to shut them off.  Make sure you also understand the proper procedure for turning utilities back on as things like propane and natural gas must be turned on by a professional.

2.     How You Will Be Notified if You Must Evacuate

The order for a community to evacuate comes from local government officials.  FEMA states that the first and most common method for notification of the public is the media.  Officials may also use sirens, phone calls, and door to door sweeps to alert homeowners in the evacuation zone.  If there is an emergency situation and your family does not feel safe remaining at home, you don’t have to wait for the order to leave, you can choose to evacuate on your own.  In the event that you have to evacuate, the time you have can vary.  Depending on the situation you may have as long as a day or two or as little as minutes.  In addition to knowing how you will be notified, you should have an evacuation plan that includes more than one way to leave your area.  This ensures you won’t be trying to figure out another way out of the city if your primary route is blocked.

3.    How to Get Out of the House if There is a Fire

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were more than 350,000 house fires in 2010 resulting in almost 3,000 deaths.  Many homeowners don’t realize that they may have less than 2 minutes to escape.  When time is that short and the house is filling with smoke, you want every member in your family to know exactly what to do without having to think about it.  Your fire evacuation plan should include two ways to get out of every room.   Take a lesson from those school children and practice your home evacuation plan at least twice a year.

4.     How to Deal with Natural Threats
Where you live will determine which natural threats you need to be prepared for and in order to be ready for an emergency, you need to know what threats can happen where you live.  The plans and preparations you need to have in place vary depending on which natural threats are likely in your area.  Once you have identified the natural threats, take time to learn what to do in the event a natural threat becomes a reality.

With a little thought and planning, homeowners may be able to minimize the damage to their home and loss of their possessions when an emergency arises.

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