Not Much Earthquake Insurance Sold in Oklahoma

By | November 8, 2011

About $6.7 million in earthquake insurance is written annually in Oklahoma, state insurance regulators say. Only about 1 percent of homeowners carry earthquake insurance — earthquake damage typically is not covered in homeowners policies.

The recent spate of tremblors in Oklahoma — including the 5.6 magnitude quake that occurred near Oklahoma City on the night of Nov. 5 — may cause property owners to rethink their insurance options.

Nearly two dozen earthquakes were reported in Oklahoma last weekend. The strongest, with a magnitude of 5.6 and a focal depth of just three miles below the surface, was centered about 44 miles east of Oklahoma City. A foreshock of M4.7 had struck 21 hours earlier.

The Oklahoma Department of Insurance reports that until local and state officials, insurance companies and adjusters have had an opportunity to receive and review all reports of earthquake damage it is difficult to know how many structures were damaged or what the total monetary loss to these earthquakes will be in Oklahoma.

The fall of a spire from a five-story, 1915-era building on the campus of St. Gregory’s University and the buckling of parts of local Highway 62, so far are the only incidents of major damage being reported, according to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide. Additional damage to at least 14 buildings has been reported, mostly from fallen chimneys and some interior breakage from dishes and other objects falling off shelves. There also has been one roof collapse and a municipal building ventilation system was damaged, AIR Worldwide reports.

The OID reports that the state’s top five carriers for residential earthquake insurance are: Travelers Group; American International Group; State Farm Group; Zurich Insurance Group; and Liberty Mutual Insurance Group.

The cost of an earthquake insurance policy in Oklahoma varies depending on several factors, the OID says, including the carrier and the policyholder’s desired level of coverage. Typically an Oklahoma homeowner might expect to pay between $100 and $150 per year for earthquake insurance, regulators say.

More than 80 earthquakes of all magnitudes have been reported across the Oklahoma in the last 30 days, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS).

The 5.6 magnitude earthquake is the largest recorded earthquake to occur in Oklahoma in modern times. The previous record was set in 1952 when a magnitude 5.5 earthquake occurred in El Reno City, according to catastrophe modeler RMS. Oklahoma appears to have had a phase of heightened seismic activity since 2009 in terms of the frequency of earthquakes recorded in the state, as indicated by the OGS, however the intensity of these tremors is in line with what is deemed normal seismic activity.

Two minor injuries were reported from Saturday’s quakes by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, according to the Associated Press. Neither person was hospitalized.

Oklahoma typically had about 50 earthquakes a year until 2009, the AP reports. In 2010, 1,047 quakes shook the state, prompting researchers to install seismographs in the area. Most of the earthquakes have been small.

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