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What Should I do Before and After an Earthquake. Two houses next to each other are depicted. One house, on the left, has earthquake damage. The other house, on the right, is undamaged. The NAIC logo is in the bottom left of the image.

Feb. 29, 2024

What Should You Do Before and After an Earthquake?

Scientists can’t predict when an earthquake will occur. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, researchers can only calculate the probability that a significant earthquake will occur in a specific area within a certain number of years. 

However, there are things you can do to prepare for an earthquake. You can consider buying an earthquake policy, and you can retrofit your home. You should also know what to do in the aftermath of an earthquake.  

What should I know about earthquake insurance? Earthquakes can cause a great deal of damage that won’t be covered under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. Your home is insured for earthquake damage only if you’ve added an endorsement to your policy or bought a separate earthquake policy. You can read the NAIC's Consumer Guide to Earthquake Insurance for additional information. 

What will my earthquake policy cover? Earthquake insurance usually won’t cover anything your homeowners insurance policy already covers. For instance, it won’t cover fire damage to your home, even if the fire started because an earthquake ruptured a gas line. This is because your homeowners policy would cover losses from a fire. 

When should I buy an earthquake policy? If there’s been a recent earthquake, most insurers won’t sell any new earthquake insurance for 30 to 60 days. If you are considering a policy, the ideal time to buy the coverage is before an earthquake occurs.  

What should I know about my earthquake policy’s deductible? A deductible is the amount the homeowner is responsible for paying on each claim. The deductible for earthquake insurance is usually 10%–20% of the coverage limit. For example, if your home is insured for $200,000, a 10% deductible would be $20,000. Read more about earthquake deductibles here.

What can I do to lower my risk of earthquake damage? Retrofitting (making changes to your home to reduce damage) may be a way to protect some homes. Completing some of the following changes can also help lower your earthquake insurance premium:  

  • Bolt down items such as bookcases, dressers, and televisions.   

  • Secure and brace the water heater to the dwelling frame.   

  • Install automatic gas shut-off valves.  

What can I expect after an earthquake? Expect aftershocks, which can cause more damage in the hours, weeks, days, or even months after an earthquake. Talk to your insurance provider about the coverage of these events. Typically, all earthquake events in a 72-hour (three-day) period are considered one event—with one claim and one set of deductibles. Damage caused by aftershocks more than 72 hours after the first quake could mean a second claim with a second set of deductibles.   

Call your insurance agent after an earthquake. The insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to assess the damages and determine the payment. These adjusters may be employees of the company or independent contractors. The adjuster will likely meet with you to inspect the damage. Your state insurance department can help if you have additional questions.  

About the National Association of Insurance Commissioners

As part of our state-based system of insurance regulation in the United States, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) provides expertise, data, and analysis for insurance commissioners to effectively regulate the industry and protect consumers. The U.S. standard-setting organization is governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer reviews, and coordinate regulatory oversight. NAIC staff supports these efforts and represents the collective views of state regulators domestically and internationally.