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Missouri residents vulnerable to earthquakes but lack proper insurance coverage

Stephanie Taylor Christensen

The New Madrid Seismic Zone, located in southeastern Missouri, is the most active seismic area in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. While fault lines in California are near or above ground, New Madrid fault lines are not, making active New Madrid’s active faults unpredictable. To make matters worse, many Missouri residents from the southeastern part of the state all the way to St. Louis do not carry earthquake insurance, leaving them vulnerable to a potential disaster.

The number of Missouri homeowners with earthquake coverage has decreased sharply over the past decade, according to the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration DIFP). In 2009, about two-thirds of homes in St. Louis County and Pemiscot County had earthquake coverage, compared with 48 percent and 51 percent, respectively, in 2002. DIFP also reports that those with earthquake insurance may not have enough coverage; many homeowners in the state carry deductibles that require out-of-pocket payments as high as $50,000 before coverage kicks in.

Earthquake insurance coverage is not included in standard home insurance policies, and it is typically expensive, according to United Policyholders. The problem is worsened by the fact that the cost of earthquake insurance has more than doubled in several Missouri counties, according to DIFP. Premiums increased by 102 percent in Pemiscot County between 2002 and 2009, for example. Moreover, earthquake policies usually require relatively high deductibles usually between 10 percent and 15 percent), according to United Policyholders.

Without coverage, however, homeowners must bear financial responsibility for the entire amount of repairs and displacement. For instance, the cost to temporarily relocate while your home is under repair averages $3,000 a month.

Some insurance providers in southeast Missouri that offer earthquake insurance coverage are State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., American Family Mutual Insurance Co., Shelter Mutual Insurance Com. and Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co., according to DIFP. When buying a policy, purchase coverage that is adequate to cover replacement of property, temporary living expenses, pricey engineering fixes and any other costs associated with earthquake damage, according to United Policyholders.

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