If you live in earthquake country, you might participate in a safety drill at work or at school. You might even be inspired to put together a family evacuation plan or invest in an emergency supply kit. But will you think about how you might rebuild your home after a major temblor?
If you’re like most people, probably not. According to the not-for-profit California Earthquake Authority (CEA), even in California—where experts put the chance of a 6.7-magnitude or larger temblor hitting the state sometime in the next 30 years at 99 percent—only about 10 percent of residents with homeowners insurance also have an earthquake policy.
What’s holding them back? Most likely it’s misconceptions about earthquake insurance. Here are some common myths and the truth behind them:
MYTH: I don’t need it because my homeowners insurance will cover the damage.
REALITY: This might be the biggest misconception about what happens after an earthquake. A separate earthquake policy is the only thing that will cover damage to your home caused by a temblor. Damage caused by shaking from an earthquake is totally excluded in all homeowners insurance policies. (An exception is damage caused by fire after an earthquake.) Don’t count on the federal government to step in. The Federal Emergency Management Agency can provide disaster assistance with low-interest loans, but they typically don’t provide enough money to allow you to rebuild your home.
MYTH: It’s so expensive and the deductibles are so high that I can’t really afford it.
REALITY: If you haven’t looked at an earthquake policy in a while, you might be pleasantly surprised: At the beginning of 2016, the CEA dropped rates an average of 10 percent and rolled out a range of new deductible choices between 5 and 25 percent. What’s more, policies are more flexible now. All homeowners or mobile home coverage includes the cost of making emergency repairs, rebuilding or repairing your home, and bringing your home up to the current building codes when making covered repairs after an earthquake. Beyond that, you may opt to cover damage to your personal belongings and loss of use (the cost of living elsewhere if your house is uninhabitable after an earthquake). The premium calculator on the CEA’s website, earthquakeauthority.com, can help you figure out what types of coverage you need, along with the estimated cost.
MYTH: It doesn’t even come close to covering everything I need, so it’s not worth it for me.
REALITY: Again, if you haven’t looked into a policy for a few years, you might find that things have changed for the better. Recently, for instance, the CEA increased limits on personal property and loss of use, so you can now get $200,000 worth of coverage for the former and $100,000 for the latter. In addition, the CEA now offers optional coverage for breakables (like dishes or ceramics) and masonry veneer (decorative brick or stone on the exterior of your house), higher limits for chimney repair, and coverage for energy efficiency and environmental safety upgrades.
Your insurance agent can provide more information or can review your existing earthquake policy to help you determine whether you have adequate coverage for your needs. Visit your local AAA branch, call (855) 222-5012, or go to AAA.com/insuranceinfo.
Illustration: Lonnie Busch