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Earthquake tremors don't shake area homeowners

Staff writer

Even after a 4.8 earthquake in southern Kansas sent tremors through Marion County and as far north as Omaha, Nebraska, last Wednesday, local insurance agents say people aren’t rushing to add earthquake insurance to their homeowners’ policies.

Although rated as moderate, the quake was the strongest in Kansas since a 5.1 earthquake struck the Manhattan area in 1867. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, at least 90 smaller earthquakes have been registered in Kansas so far this year.

A canvass of insurance agents in the area revealed that most insurance companies offer earthquake insurance, but few people have it.

Several agents noted that, after an earthquake occurs, many companies institute a waiting period before adding coverage to existing policies.

Farm Bureau Insurance agent Coleen Koop said her company has placed a moratorium on adding earthquake insurance to existing policies but will include it in new policies, if requested. She said the company might have to figure out the risk involved in offering the coverage.

Jayson Hanschu with American Family Insurance said earthquake coverage is an option on a homeowner’s policy. He estimated that one of 100 policies includes earthquake insurance. He said he sells about one per year. He has several clients who live south of Wichita, and they don’t have it, he said, and even when people call and learn the minimal cost of coverage, most still don’t take it.

Alex Case of Case and Son Insurance said homeowners need to call their insurance company if they want to add earthquake insurance, but right now, they can’t get it. He said there is a 72-hour waiting period after an earthquake has occurred to see if there will be aftershocks. Another 7-day waiting period follows.

“Less than 1 percent of the policies I have sold include earthquake insurance,” he said, “but I guarantee that number is going to grow.”

He noted, as did several other agents, that even though the cost is minimal, deductibles can range from 5 to 20 percent.

“You’re going to have a lot of damage before you have an earthquake claim,” he said.

Becky Walsh of State Farm Insurance said the company has an endorsement for earthquake coverage.

“We’re getting more (requests for it) all the time,” she said.

Avery Insurance Agency in Peabody sells insurance for several companies. Agent Caleb Good said some insurance companies do not offer earthquake insurance. Those that do, he said, often have a waiting period of 30 to 60 days. He said a “very, very” small percentage of his clients have earthquake insurance.

Robert Williams, a geophysicist in the regional office of the USGS in Denver, said the area north of Wichita has a relatively low seismic risk, but a large earthquake cannot be ruled out.

“In all parts of the U.S., east of the Rockies, even in low hazard areas, we include and wouldn’t be surprised by a large earthquake happening,” he said. “It’s very unlikely, but we don’t rule out the possibility of a damaging earthquake. It depends on how deep it would occur — the deeper the better in terms of reducing shaking at the surface.”

Data from the USGS website indicates Marion County has a 1 percent probability of having a magnitude 5.0 quake over the next 100 years.

Although a magnitude 5.0 earthquake would be felt widely, he said, damage would be minor and likely would be limited to within 10 or 20 miles of the epicenter.

Williams said the sedimentary nature of the soil east of the Rockies allows the energy from an earthquake to travel farther than in California, where soils are rockier.

Last modified Nov. 20, 2014

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