Stillwater News Press

March 27, 2014

Residents consider earthquake insurance

By NewsPress Staff
Stillwater News Press

STILLWATER, Okla. — As residents of “Tornado Alley,” Oklahomans have long dealt with severe storms. However, many are disconcerted by a new, less predictable, threat.

From 1972-2008, Oklahoma logged two to six earthquakes per year, but that number began to climb in 2008 and continues to increase.

Earthquake Track reported nearly 500 earthquakes of 1.5 magnitude or greater in Oklahoma in the past year, with 164 of those in the past month.

The escalation has residents asking if they should buy earthquake insurance to protect their property.

Earthquake insurance is available through many insurance companies but property owners have to ask for it and pay an extra charge. According to the Oklahoma Insurance Department, less than one percent of Oklahomans have earthquake insurance.

A standard homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover earthquake damage, but many companies offer it as an endorsement to a standard policy, Farmers Insurance agent Tricia Carpenter said.

The cost is based on factors such as loss history, type of construction and the amount of coverage. If your insurer doesn’t offer earthquake coverage, your options are finding a company that offers stand-alone earthquake policies or moving your insurance to another carrier, she said.

Earthquake deductibles in this area average 2 percent of your policy limits, meaning a homeowner with a house insured for $300,000 would have to cover the first $6,000 of damage out of pocket, independent agent Kandice Murphy said.  

That homeowner would pay less than $100 per year to be covered in the case of severe earthquake damage.

People aren’t reporting major earthquake damage at this time, said Stillwater emergency management technician Rob Hill.

The most common reports are cracks in walls or exterior brick, he said. A few people have also reported cracked windows and doors that don’t close properly.

In addition to having significant deductibles, there are other restrictions on coverage.

Most insurers require a 60-day waiting period before coverage can take effect if a quake above 4.0 magnitude has occurred within 100 miles, Carpenter said.

Insurance experts recommend reading your insurance policy carefully to learn what is and isn’t covered.