According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), all 50 states have some potential to experience damaging earthquake shaking, and there are about 20,000 earthquakes around the world each year. Yet, in a poll by the Insurance Information Institute, just 23% of homeowners reported they had earthquake insurance coverage. Earthquakes pose one of the greatest threats of any natural disaster. They can trigger landslides, avalanches, floods, fires, and tsunamis. And unlike other natural events, they have no season, they can occur at any time of the year.
In January 1994, the Northridge earthquake in Southern California caused an estimated $44 billion in damage, the costliest in US history. In its aftermath, the state established the California Earthquake Authority as a publicly managed provider of earthquake insurance. While earthquakes are most frequent west of the Rocky Mountains, there are risks across the entire United States. The New Madrid Fault spans many of the central states and has resulted in the largest earthquake in the continental US. The eastern states tend to have lower risk, but the potential damage is amplified due to the age of many buildings constructed before modern engineering and construction techniques.
REInsurePro’s Earth Movement Policy
Although earthquakes cannot be prevented, your investor clients can take steps to protect properties from their potentially devastating effects. Earthquake coverage is not included under standard property insurance but REInsurePro is able to offer a supplemental policy for Earth Movement on our monthly reporting form.
This Earth Movement coverage extends to damage caused by a sudden and violent shaking of the ground resulting from movement of the Earth’s crust.* What makes this product especially beneficial is that it also provides coverage for sinkholes, which are typically excluded from standard property policies.
Sinkholes are naturally occurring depressions in the surface of the ground caused by the settlement or sudden collapse of land. While we are able to monitor seismically active areas and faults, there is no way to determine if there is, or isn’t, a sinkhole on your property. But they can cause extremely costly damage. The USGS conservatively estimates that sinkholes cause $300 million in damage per year.
REInsurePro’s Earth Movement coverage can provide your investor clients with additional protection should one of these natural disasters affect their investments. The deductible for this coverage is 10% of the Total Insured Value per location, subject to a $2,500 minimum, and is available in 45 states. Excluded states are Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, and Illinois.
Investors can mitigate additional loss with these tips
In addition to insurance coverage, here are a few helpful tips for investors and their tenants:
- Anchor bookcases, freestanding cabinets, and other furniture to nearby walls. Affix self-locking latches to cabinet drawers or doors. Secure electronic equipment to the floor or table surface with braces or hook and loop closures.
- Use a protective film on glass windows, doors, and walls to prevent shattering.
- Replace rigid plumbing supply lines and couplings with flexible braided lines and flexible couples to reduce the chance of rupture.
- Install flexible connection pipes between gas or propane appliances/equipment and their supply lines. Gas lines should have an automatic seismic safety shutoff valve at all structure entry points to cut off the flow of gas when seismic activity is sensed.
- Brace mechanical equipment such as boilers, furnaces, air conditioning equipment, and water heaters to the wall and/or floor to prevent overturning or shifting.
- When possible, ensure the hangers supporting mechanical and plumbing systems are less than 12 inches long to reduce the sway during a tremor.
*Coverage does not extend to damage caused by mudslide, lava flow, flood, or fire that may have been triggered by earth movement.
Note: This piece is not to be construed as contractual. Applicable language specific to the policy supersedes it. Information contained in this post is intended to provide a brief overview of the coverages provided for reference purposes only. It is not intended to provide all policy exclusions, limitations, and conditions.