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Earthquake insurance questions remind Missourians to prepare

Earthquake insurance questions remind Missourians to prepare

July 14th, 2019 by Bob Watson in Local News

Volunteers assist with cleanup at the Ridgecrest, Calif., branch of the Kern County Library on Friday, July 5, 2019, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that shook the region about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Los Angeles Thursday. Aftershocks from Southern California's largest earthquake in 20 years rumbled beneath the Mojave Desert on Friday as authorities tallied damage in the sparsely populated region. (Jessica Weston/The Daily Independent via AP)

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Missouri's Insurance Department concerned about earthquake coverage

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Preparing for an earthquake never is far from state and local public safety officials' minds — especially in the eastern half of Missouri.

After all, Missouri is home to some of the nation's most powerful earthquakes in recorded history — even though they happened in 1811 and 1812 and were centered in the New Madrid Fault that runs across the Bootheel section of the state.

Cole, Osage, Callaway and Boone counties in Mid-Missouri are shown on several maps of places in Missouri with higher earthquake risks as in Zone VII, the fourth worst category for damage.

A State Emergency Management Agency guide says in Zone VII: "People have difficulty standing. (There is) considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed buildings, adobe houses, old walls, spires and others. Damage is slight to moderate in well-built buildings.

"Numerous windows are broken. Weak chimneys break at roof lines. Cornices from towers and high buildings fall. Loose bricks fall from buildings. Heavy furniture is overturned and damaged. Some sand and gravel stream banks cave in."

But Bill Farr, the Jefferson City-Cole County Emergency Management director, told the News Tribune last week: "In all the years that we've been doing the (earthquake) training exercise they've always told us that we'll be more of a reception and care area, because they say (the damage) more likely will follow the Mississippi River than the Missouri River."

That means, Farr said, Mid-Missouri will be one area handling "a lot of evacuees."

The SEMA plan is based on the assumption that most of the roads and bridges in the Bootheel, and many bridges along I-55 in Southeast Missouri and I-70 in the St. Louis area, will be demolished or damaged heavily.

Two years ago, Farr said, their earthquake exercise envisioned people using U.S. 50 to evacuate from the epicenter, and being able to use "respite centers" where they could get fuel, water and something to eat.

In that exercise, State Technical College in Linn was used as a respite center, and then, the evacuees were directed to the State Fairgrounds in Sedalia as a gathering place to wait while clean up began near the epicenter of the earthquake.

Those exercises actually involve Missouri and seven neighboring states.

Even though the current expert thinking is that Mid-Missouri won't see as much damage from an earthquake as areas along the Mississippi, Farr said "It wouldn't hurt to look at" one's insurance policies and riders, to see if someone should carry earthquake insurance.

Last week's Insurance Department report — which revealed the number of customers carrying earthquake insurance coverage has been dropping across the Show-Me State, while the costs of premiums have been climbing — showed, in Cole County, the average annual earthquake premium was $43 a year in 2000 and now is $113 a year, a 163.7 percent increase.

In 2000, 43.5 percent of homes were covered for earthquake damage, but in 2018, that number had fallen to 26.5 percent — a 17 percent drop.

In Callaway County, the average premium rose from $32 a year in 2000 to $89 a year in 2018 — a 174.8 percent increase.

In 2000, 37.5 percent of all residences were covered for earthquake damage, but only 24 percent had that coverage last year — a 13.5 percent drop.

Osage County saw the area's biggest premium jump, from an average $32 a year in 2000 to $130 a year last year — a 301.2 percent climb.

In 2000, 33.3 percent of all residences were covered, but that dropped to 18.3 percent last year — a 15 percent reduction.

And in Boone County, the average premium climbed from $44 a year in 2000 to $110 a year in 2018 — a 149.9 percent increase.

In 2000, 37.6 percent of residences carried earthquake coverage, but that dropped to 24.3 percent last year — a 13.7 percent decrease in coverage.

Farr and Brandon Koch, executive director for the Missouri Insurance Coalition, both said the May 22 tornado should serve as a reminder for people to make sure their homes and property are covered for accidents and disasters.

"We look at our insurance policy every year and (decide) if we have to up the coverage, if there's something out there that's offered or there's something you might need," Farr said.

Koch said the department's report raises awareness of the issue.

"The one thing I would encourage Missourians to do is, if they have questions — specifically about earthquake coverage — they should reach out to their agents or their insurance companies to have that conversation," he said.