How do I decide whether or not to get earthquake insurance?

You should consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to get earthquake insurance:

  • proximity to active earthquake faults
  • seismic history of the region (frequency of earthquakes)
  • time since last earthquake
  • building construction (type of building and foundation)
  • architectural layout
  • materials used
  • quality of workmanship
  • extent to which earthquake resistance was considered by the designer
  • local site conditions (type and condition of soil)
  • slope of the land
  • fill material
  • geologic structure of the earth beneath
  • annual rainfall
  • value of the building and its contents
  • cost of the insurance and restrictions on coverage (i.e. the deductible).

You will probably need an expert to evaluate your situation. The USGS is unable to make recommendations, but your homeowner’s insurance agent may be able to provide additional information.

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What is a seismic zone, or seismic hazard zone?

Although you may hear the terms “seismic zone” and “seismic hazard zone” used interchangeably, they really describe two slightly different things. A seismic zone is used to describe an area where earthquakes tend to focus; for example, the New Madrid Seismic Zone in the Central United States. A seismic hazard zone describes an area with a...