Take a good look at your home insurance policy. Chances are earthquake damage is NOT
covered. Earthquake coverage needs to be purchased separately.
Insurance companies are aware that a home retrofit significantly decreases the risk of earthquake damage. That’s why they won’t provide earthquake insurance for Portland homes built before 1975 (prior to when seismic codes were in place) unless those homes have been retrofitted.
Upon completion of your retrofit by Oregon Seismic, you will receive a letter confirming that your home has been professionally retrofitted and now meets the requirements for seismic reinforcement according to local and federal standards. This will allow you to obtain earthquake insurance.
Earthquake Insurance Coverage
There are typically two parts of earthquake coverage: your property coverage which covers your property up to a certain amount — called the limit — and personal property coverage.
Property coverage varies, as do deductibles. It’s worth it to research and compare. In Oregon there is no regulated coverage and only a limited number of providers. Choose a company that is highly rated by A.M. Best or check with the Oregon insurance commissioner. Keep in mind that earthquake insurance might not cover landscaping, pools, fences, masonry, and out buildings like storage sheds, gazebos or garages. If you rent or own a condo, you probably don’t need earthquake insurance — just check to make sure that your association itself has coverage.
It is also essential to know what your earthquake insurance policy doesn’t cover. All insurance policies have exclusions. Have your insurance agent sit down with you to help you understand your policy. In general, earthquake insurance does not cover anything that your normal home insurance policy already covers. You will need to check with your agent to confirm where fire and liability insurance leave off and where earthquake insurance kicks in. Common exclusions include:
• Fire: Even if an earthquake causes the fire, your home’s insurance policy generally covers fire damage.
• Land: Usually, earthquake insurance does not cover damage to your land, such as sinkholes from erosion or other hidden openings under your land. You may be able to buy limited additional coverage to restore or stabilize your land.
• Vehicles: Earthquake insurance does not cover damage to your vehicles. If you have vehicles that could be damaged you may want to check into additional insurance.
Earthquake insurance is affordable, but it’s not uncommon for the deductibles run from 15 – 25%. As yourself how much cash you will need to have on hand to jump start a repair process. After a 9.0 earthquake it could take six months before the city will clear your home for occupancy.
Earthquake insurance premiums vary depending on many factors, including the age of your home, the location, the kind of soil, the cost to rebuild, and the deductible.
What else can you do to protect your property and manage your risk from a major earthquake?
• Research the location of the property on a local hazard map to assess your risk.
• Have a contractor like Oregon Seismic bolt the property to the foundation.
• Have a contractor like Oregon Seismic strap water heaters to the wall.
• Have a contractor like Oregon Seismic put in automatic gas shut-off valves.
The main recommendation in all documents regarding the impending Cascadia earthquake emphasize preparation and planning. We may not have the power to prevent the earthquake, but we do have the knowledge and technology to reduce the damages it may inflict.