Earthquake Safety and Preparedness
Earthquakes can hit any place at any time. But, more than 80 percent of known fault ruptures, which are the cause of earthquakes, take place along the circum-Pacific seismic belt, more commonly known as the Ring of Fire.1 Elevation changes – tall mountain ranges and steep oceanic trenches – define this region, and they naturally bring the risk of earthquakes with them. Yet, according to the Federal Agency of Emergency Management (FEMA), a total of 45 states and territories are at a moderate to high risk for earthquakes – including the Midwest.2
The sudden and abrupt nature of earthquakes is only part of what makes them so hazardous. Seismic waves produced after fault ruptures are strong enough to trigger landslides and tsunamis, bring skyscrapers tumbling to the ground, and destroy the foundational structure of your home.
If you live in a coastal region of the western United States, you live with a greater earthquake risk than most. Here is a list of things to help keep you and your family safe in the worst-case scenario. You can also visit our Earthquake Safety Action Guide
First Things First – Fortify Your Home, Protect Your Family
Secure appliances. Go through your home and identify any appliances that are more likely to tip over in an earthquake or other natural disaster such as televisions, computers, bookcases, large utilities like furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators, and other big pieces of furniture. Bolt them to the floor or attach them to wall studs.
Fasten shelves and hanging items. Make sure shelves, pictures and mirrors are secured tightly to the walls. Place breakable or fragile items in low cabinets with latches. (Keep in mind that some of these items may not be covered by a standard home insurance policy.) If you have low-hanging or heavy light fixtures, brace them.3
Check the structural strength of your home. Consider finding a local contractor to help you identify structural weaknesses or defects in your home's foundation, internal plumbing and masonry work. You may want to bring in a professional to check for faulty wiring and damaged gas connections, both of which are fire hazards.4 Additional fire hazards include gas cans lying haphazardly in detached buildings. Store these on the bottom of closed cabinets with latches. Do the same with pesticides and weed killers.
Prepare yourself and your family. If you or your family experiences an earthquake, seek shelter immediately. Ready.gov recommends Drop, Cover, and Hold On: Drop to the ground, go underneath a sturdy piece of furniture such as a strong table, and hold on until the shaking subsides.5
Understand Your Coverage
Get proper coverage. Earthquake coverage is not included in a standard home insurance policy. It must be purchased as an additional endorsement. If you own a home in a region afflicted by earthquakes, be sure you have sufficient coverage for the reconstruction cost of your home from the interior to the exterior, foundation to the roof, and your possessions. But it's important to note that an Earthquake endorsement provides limited coverage on certain high-value items – or in some instances (glassware, porcelain or ceramic items, artwork) none at all. If you own high value items, you'll want to consider purchasing special coverage just for them. If you want to verify your coverage or schedule high-value items, give us a call. We're here to help.
In Case Disaster Strikes
Give us a call. Touch base with us as soon as you can, and have your policy number ready if possible. We can initiate a claim, explain your available coverage, and provide recommendations and solutions for cleaning up and repairing your home.
Take pictures – before and after. Photographic evidence of your home and the valuables in it helps us better help you in the event of a loss. Long before damage occurs, take pictures of your home – from the outside and some of the contents of each room. Ideally, you would store copies of these photos in a location other than your home. (Uploading them to a free online photo storage site is an easy solution.) If you do experience a loss, take detailed photos right away. That way, you can provide before and after photos of damage, which gives us a basis for comparison and a more thorough understanding of the scale of the damage.
Save receipts. If you are the victim of an earthquake and have an Earthquake endorsement, you may file a claim for additional living expenses. These are expenses beyond what you would normally incur – things like charges to stay at a reasonably priced hotel, half the costs of meals, and even pet boarding fees. Save all receipts for the purposes of reimbursement at a later date.
Earthquakes never give forewarning, nor are they forgiving. Plan ahead today to protect your home tomorrow.