The East Coast has been hit hard over the last week. Within the one week, Virginia was hit with a 5.8 magnitude quake and Hurricane Irene. Although the Virginia-based earthquake may seem small to those who reside on the West Coast, its mere occurrence should be a reminder to those living on the West Coast that unexpected earthquakes can happen at any time and that earthquake preparedness is a necessity. The East Coast earthquake has and should raise awareness for home and business owners alike. It’s time to assess our needs and make sure there’s adequate insurance.
Interestingly, the East Coast 5.8 magnitude earthquake was centered in Virginia and felt up and down the entire Eastern seaboard. The last East Coast earthquake of a similar magnitude happened in New York in 1944. In contrast, California and the rest of the West Coast has literally hundreds of earthquakes daily, and when a 5.8 earthquake strikes the West Coast, its rumblings are usually localized and not felt region wide.
Geologists believe West Coast earthquakes are a result of plate shifts along known active fault lines, and seismic waves are prevented from traveling great distances due to the many fault lines. On the East Coast, quakes result from stresses built up over time, and seismic waves are able to travel more efficiently over the harder and cooler rock which makes up the East Coast.
Here in California, we are constantly reminded that we are overdue for another big earthquake of similar or greater magnitude than the 1994 Northridge Quake. Since the 1994 Northridge Quake, insurance companies have changed the way earthquake insurance is sold to homeowners and businesses. Earthquake insurance, in most cases, is not part of the regular policy that is purchased from the insurance company. Instead, it is a separate policy or rider purchased at an additional cost to the insured.
In California, earthquake insurance is expensive. Over the course of the last few years, homeowners and businesses have dropped the additional expense of earthquake coverage in an attempt to cut back on costs. However, with the growing risk of earthquakes across the country, (let’s not forget that Colorado had a 5.9 earthquake the day before Virginia), it may be time for policyholders to assess their needs. If improvements have been made to homes or if businesses have gained value in equipment, stock or other upgrades, these changes should be reflected in the insurance coverage purchased.
Californians have found after disasters that their homes and businesses have been underinsured. In light of the East Coast quake, it’s time for insureds to examine their policies to make sure there’s enough coverage in the event of a loss.
For more information on earthquake insurance in California, see the Earthquake Authority’s website, www.earthquakeauthority.com.