I recently returned from Haiti where I regularly travel to do mission work. As you may recall, this poor nation, 90 minutes south of Miami, suffered an earthquake on January 12, 2010 that killed a quarter million people. I took the following picture 2 months after that tragedy. According to the US Geological Survey, there have been between 14,000 and 32,000 earthquakes per year worldwide over the last 12 years. Of these, 15 were a magnitude of 8.0 or greater. The devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti was a 7.0. The number of deaths from earthquakes was as low of 231 in 2000 to as high of 320,120 in 2010. There is little debate that out of all the natural disasters that occur in this world, the shaking of the earth’s tectonic plates has the potential for the greatest amount of damage.
I point this out because I believe that too many property owners do not give consideration to the potential of major damage affecting their buildings and the contents within them. If there is a consistent omission of coverage from the typical insurance policy, it is for this peril. In fact, I am unaware of any insurance policy that automatically provides earthquake coverage. In order for the policy to include this coverage it must be requested.
Unlike the perils of fire, windstorm and smoke, earthquake coverage is purchased separately and can be for an amount that is not reflective of the entire building and its contents. In other words, you may have full replacement coverage for your building and contents for fire, but only purchase a definitive amount of coverage for an earthquake.
Because of this fact, it is recommended that you purchase an amount of coverage that reflects the probability of damage to your building (i.e. façade damage) that would allow you to make the substantial repairs that an earthquake can cause. Typically, newer, well-built buildings can withstand a minor earthquake, especially wood frame buildings, but a masonry building with a brick veneer may see the face of the building fall away when the earth shakes.
To gauge how much coverage to obtain, start by speaking with a qualified contractor and ask their opinion on the resiliency of your building to withstand a tremor. Then, obtain at least a modicum of coverage that would allow you to make repairs so as to alleviate the financial burden of paying for damage out-of-pocket. If your building is in a community that is near a fault line, then consider the potential of replacing the entire structure and purchase insurance accordingly. Bear in mind that earthquake deductibles are usually substantially higher than the deductible for other perils.
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