Earthquakes have inflicted damage in all 50 U.S states. As urban development and other factors increase vulnerability to quakes, it makes sense to minimize their seismic impact on your family and property with these facts and suggestions.
Unlike other disasters such as hurricanes, there are no seasons or warnings for earthquakes. They can happen almost anywhere at anytime.
About 5,000 earthquakes of varying severity occur on Earth in any given year. Over the last 100 years in the U.S., while seismic activity is most commonly associated with California, earthquakes have occurred in 39 states, and have inflicted damage in all 50 states. Indeed, in some areas, such as Oklahoma, where fracking is being used to extract crude oil, there has been an increase in earthquakes, suggesting that these states may be at higher risk as well.
The potential cost of earthquake damage to lives and property has grown due to increased urban development in seismically active areas. The presence of older buildings adds to these costs because the structures may not have been built—or upgraded—to current building codes.
Everyone, no matter where they live, should understand their earthquake risk and have a disaster recovery plan that includes securing the right type and amount of insurance.
Earthquakes are not covered under standard homeowners or business insurance policies. Earthquake insurance, however, is available in the form of an endorsement to those types of policies. In California, homeowners can also get coverage from the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), a privately funded, publicly managed organization. Earthquake insurance provides for damage caused by the shaking and cracking that can destroy buildings and personal possessions. Coverage for other kinds of damage that may result from earthquakes, such as fire and water damage due to burst gas and water pipes, is provided by standard home and business insurance policies.
In most states, fewer than 10 percent of homeowners currently buy earthquake coverage, suggesting that many who are at risk are uninsured for the potential disaster.
Whether or not you opt for earthquake insurance for your home or business, a few simple steps can reduce property damage and help protect you and yours from injury.
If the structural elements of your home need reinforcement to protect them from seismic activity, consider investing in some of these important and common retrofits:
For more preparedness tips, handy checklists (including ones you can personalize yourself) and evacuation planning advice to cover a variety of disasters, get the I.I.I.’s Know Your Plan app. It's a great tool to help get you and your family—including pets—organized and ready to act more quickly if an emergency strikes.
Next steps: Learn more about insuring yourself against earthquake damage.