In the wake of the recent Great Shakeout earthquake drill and the recent 4.3 magnitude earthquake near Port Townsend, some are asking about earthquake insurance. There is some key information to know.

First, both homeowners and renters insurance do not cover earthquake damage. A separate earthquake insurance ‘endorsement’ or stand-alone policy is needed, and is usually offered with deductibles equaling 10 to 25 percent of the structure’s policy limit. In addition, it only pays for damages that exceed that deductible. There may also be a separate deductible for contents, and unattached structures like garages, driveways and retaining walls.

What earthquake insurance does cover are repairs to your home, damage to personal property, the cost to remove debris, and extra living expenses that may occur while home repairs are underway.

Earthquake insurance does not cover damages such as to vehicles (auto insurance does), pre-existing damage, external water damage, and damage due to landslides, mudflows, shifting land including land settling. In addition, this insurance may not cover flooding and tsunamis even if generated by an earthquake.

It is always important to determine what is and is not covered by earthquake insurance by discussing this with your agent or broker, plus read your policy thoroughly. In addition, if a major earthquake damages your home to the point it has to be completely rebuilt and you are without earthquake insurance, your mortgage payments continue unless you also have mortgage insurance.

Who sells earthquake insurance in Washington State? The state of Washington ranks second in the lower 48 for earthquake risk, second to California. As a result, the number of insurance companies that offer earthquake insurance is more limited than those companies that provide homeowners, renter, auto insurance, and more.

The Washington State Insurance Commissioner’s Office does not retain a current list of insurance companies that offer policies in the state. The Commissioner’s Office does have a 2021 list of insurance companies that had earthquake insurance policies that year found on page 20 of this web-linked directory.

Some insurance companies may require a property inspection prior to issuing an earthquake policy. The inspection may involve ensuring your home is bolted to its foundation, there is bracing of interior walls, and strapping guards are in place to secure fixtures like hot water heaters.

The cost of earthquake insurance in many cases may double the cost of your homeowners or renters insurance, depending on the deductible. If considering obtaining earthquake insurance following both the recent Great Shakeout drill and/or the 4.3 earthquake near Port Townsend earlier this month, be prepared for some form of sticker shock and discuss with your insurance agent.