Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak is advising Oklahomans to purchase earthquake insurance after a report from the U.S. Geological Survey predicts seismic activity will continue in the central part of the state.
“With an average 40 earthquakes per year, we feel very strongly that this is something we need to be talking about in Oklahoma,” Doak said.
“Earthquake insurance is available and affordable in Oklahoma, but not that many people have the coverage.”
Central Oklahoma has experienced more than 200 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or greater since January 2009, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Less than 1 percent of Oklahomans carry earthquake insurance, according to the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Standard homeowners or renters insurance polices do not cover damage caused by earthquakes.
John Wiscaver, vice president of public affairs for Oklahoma Farm Bureau Insurance, said the company typically gets an influx of calls about earthquake coverage immediately after an quake in the area, but the coverage is typically less of a priority for homeowners than insurance protection against wind and hail in blustery Oklahoma.
Earthquake coverage can help protect a homeowner if an earthquake causes the need to repair a damaged foundation or other often costly structural problems.
“Generally, an earthquake policy covers structural damage that has been verified to have been created by an earthquake — that's excluded under most homeowners policies,” Wiscaver said.
Earthquake policies vary in cost depending on multiple factors, including the desired level of coverage and deductible amount, but most Oklahoma homeowners can expect to pay $100 to $150 per year for the coverage, which will cover repairs to the property and may cover other structures not attached to the house, like a garage. Earthquake coverage insures personal property against damage from an earthquake and covers the cost of removing debris.
Many homeowners and business owners may not realize that their policy does not cover earthquake damage until it's too late, said Jerry Johns, retired president of the Southwestern Insurance Information Service.
“Earthquake coverage is similar to flood insurance in that most homeowner policies don't cover it,” Johns said.
“Unfortunately, most people find out the hard way that they don't have coverage.”