Many people think that earthquakes are only likely to occur in California. But according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), more than 20 U.S. states have experienced measurable earthquake activity over the past three decades.
Most Californians don't have quake insurance
A majority of the world's biggest earthquakes take place along the U.S. Pacific Coast, stretching from Southern California to Alaska. Though California has one of the highest earthquake risks in the country, only 12% of the state's homeowners have earthquake insurance, according to a Bloomberg news report. To help encourage more Californians to purchase earthquake coverage, the CEA was created in 1995. The CEA is a nonprofit, privately funded insurer created by the state's government to help make earthquake insurance more affordable. This "mini-policy" option is available through most California insurance carriers.
Supplemental earthquake insurance
Standard homeowners, condo owners, or renters insurance policies don't cover earthquake damage to property and personal belongings. Federal and state financial assistance after an earthquake will probably not cover all your replacement costs. Even if your neighborhood is declared a disaster area, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can only offer limited assistance through grants, and only to those who qualify.
In most states, insurers offer earthquake insurance as a separate option to their standard homeowners policy for an additional premium. Premiums vary from state to state, depending on statistical and risk-assessment factors. Rates are lower in states with lower seismic activity.
If you live in California, you can use CEA's premium calculator to determine rates in your area.
Earthquake insurance coverage
As when buying any type of insurance, purchase the coverage that works best for your budget and individual needs. Consider these factors:
- What's the cost to replace your possessions? Replacement costs for major appliances and other expensive items in your home could add up to a substantial sum.
- Where would you live if your residence were uninhabitable? If your home sustains structural damage, you might have to vacate the premises and stay in a hotel while repairs are being done.
- How much is your home worth? Your earthquake coverage should match the level of coverage on your homeowners insurance.
A home inventory is a useful way to record your most valuable assets ahead of any loss and provide a better idea of how much coverage you might need. Keeping an accurate property inventory will help facilitate the claims process in the event you have to file a claim. A visual record of your possessions, such as a video walk-through of your home or a series of photographs, can help establish proof of ownership. Make a list of everything of value in your residence. Keep documentation of major purchases, including receipts, credit card statements, and appraisals. These documents can be scanned for digital storage or kept in a safe off-site location, such as a safe deposit box. And once you've created your home inventory, be sure to keep it updated.
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To learn more about earthquake insurance and whether it's available in your area, contact your insurance agent.