Earthquakes aren’t a risk everywhere, but in certain areas of Canada they pose a serious threat.
Fortunately, there are earthquake insurance options available across the country. On this page, we’ll explain how earthquake insurance coverage works and how you can get it for your home.
Do I really need earthquake insurance?
Hopefully, we’ll never need to use it, but earthquake insurance is an important coverage available throughout Canada. Some areas are more likely to be hit by an earthquake than others, but an earthquake occurs every 30 seconds on average—it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you currently have home insurance, then it’s important to know that most policies exclude earthquake damage by default. You must usually add a rider to your policy. This comes with an additional premium and, usually, a separate deductible. However, depending on where you live, and the deductible you choose, earthquake insurance can be quite affordable. Square One offers earthquake coverage on all of the policies we sell.
Even if you have earthquake coverage, though, it’s important to be prepared.
Tips for protecting your home
If you live in an earthquake zone there are some things you can do to minimize the damage to your home. Here’s the rundown of long-term earthquake preparedness:
Reinforce the foundation, walls and roof
A little reinforcement will help the home withstand lateral and vertical earth movement. You may want to contact a professional to give you some tips, and help with the improvements. Listed are some of Earthquakes Canada’s recommendations:
Add shatter-resistant film to windows or use tempered or wired safety glass.
Add restraining elements to minimize twisting and cracking, if your house is built in a non-symmetrical style.
Make sure any support posts are well braced and are anchored to the ground.
If your home is heated by natural gas, use flexible pipe connections for gas appliances to help prevent rupturing. Seismic-activated gas valves can be installed to shut off the gas during severe earthquakes.
Repair cracks in exterior blocks or brickwork to prevent toppling during an earthquake.
Prevent bricks from falling through your ceiling, by reinforcing the ceiling below any chimneys. You can also add a steel collar-style brace to the chimney.
Make sure your roof tiles are well secured, especially ones that are vulnerable to quakes, like clay tiles.
Secure the contents of your home
During a severe quake, unsecured items cause many avoidable injuries. When you soundly fix certain objects, they are less likely to be damaged, or cause injury, in an earthquake.
Closed hooks or safety hangers for pictures and mirrors will prevent damaged items, broken glass, and possible injury.
Non-skid, padded matting under breakables, like TVs, will prevent them from sliding.
Childproof catches for cabinet doors and rails for display cases will prevent cupboards opening, and contents flying across the room.
Flammable items and household chemicals should be kept secured in an upright position, away from heat.
Valuable items and important documents should be kept in a fire-resistant place.
Screw or bolt bookshelves securely to walls.
Take a look at the site surrounding your home
Earthquakes can wreak a lot of havoc outdoors, too.
Check for trees that are in poor shape, or are leaning.
Look for power lines that are close to your home. These could be a hazard if they fall onto the house.
Reinforce additions to the home, such as canopies or porches, so they don’t separate from the main house.
Check for any other possible hazards, like nearby reservoirs or water towers, as well as buildings in poor repair. If there is a major fault in your area, relocating may be the best solution, if the risk is high enough.
Consider the soil conditions in your area
Contact a soil engineer, or a local building authority to check the type of soil on your property.
If the soil is poor, your home’s foundation may need reinforcement. Poor soil consists of deep loose sand or gravel, silty clays, or granular soils that are soft or saturated. Saturated soil can change from solid to liquid during an earthquake. The soil turns to quicksand, which cannot support a foundation.
Good soil, on the other hand, features things like bedrock. Good undergound conditions consist of deep, unbroken rock formations, and other stiff soils are considered to be good types of soil when it comes to withstanding an earthquake. Vibrations are much less likely to be transferred through your foundation, to the house above.
Making an earthquake plan
It’s crucial to have an earthquake kit on hand in the event of an emergency. There are other things you should do in advance as well, like creating an evacuation plan for your family.
Learn all about preparing your Earthquake kit and plan on our preparing for earthquakes page.
Insuring your home for earthquakes
If you live in an earthquake zone, then you must consider earthquake insurance. We all hope the big one doesn’t hit in our lifetime, but just in case, adding earthquake insurance to your home insurance policy is one other crucial thing you can do to be prepared.
Traditional home insurance policies don’t include loss or damage caused by earthquakes; rather, you must specifically request that your insurer add it to your policy. There will be an additional cost to add this coverage. Earthquake insurance typically has its own limit of insurance as well as a separate deductible, which is usually higher than the base deductible.
While earthquake insurance can be pricey for those who own houses, we strongly recommend that all primary residences have it in place. It’s simply not worth the risk of going without earthquake insurance. The cost of this insurance varies depending on the local earthquake risk, as well as the amount of coverage required and the deductible you choose. For those renting their homes or living in apartments or condos, earthquake insurance usually ranges from $5 to $50 per year.
Some people have little confidence that home insurance companies will be able to pay covered claims resulting from a major event like a catastrophic earthquake. But, numerous earthquakes and other disasters occur around the world each year—they aren’t novel events. Insurance companies factor earthquakes into their prices, building reserves to pay for resulting claims. Some of the other things that help ensure insurance companies can meet their commitments:
Insurers buy catastrophe protection from reinsurance companies. This helps spread the risk (and cost) of disasters globally.
Insurance companies are heavily regulated by both provincial and federal governments. Among other things, these governmental bodies supervise the solvency of companies.
Insurance companies must be members of the Property and Casualty Insurance Compensation Corporation (PACICC). If an insurance company fails, PACICC will automatically respond to all valid claims for participating members. PACICC is similar to the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation, which protects savings in case a bank fails.
What does earthquake insurance cover?
Earthquake insurance covers loss or damage caused by the tremor or shaking from an earthquake. It does not cover loss or damage caused by landslides, snowslides or other forms of earth movement. Nor does it cover loss or damage caused by tsunamis or tidal waves, even if the tsunami or tidal wave was due to an earthquake.
If you own a house, your earthquake insurance will cover loss or damage to your building and your personal property. Make sure you also carry “Additional Living Expense” coverage on your policy, so it can cover any extra expenses you incur if you’re unable to live in your home while it’s being repaired after an earthquake.
If you own a condo, your condo (or strata) corporation is responsible for insuring the building. Your individual condo policy must include earthquake insurance to cover your personal property, upgrades to your unit, and additional living expenses. Your policy may also cover assessments made against you because of a shortfall in your condo corporation’s insurance.
Condo owners should take special note: if you live in a condo building that suffers damage in an earthquake, each unit owner may be assessed a portion of the building’s deductible. On your condo unit owner’s policy, you can purchase coverage to protect you in just such a case. However, it will only protect you if the loss is one that is covered on your condo policy. So if you don’t carry earthquake insurance on your contents, your policy will not respond to cover any assessment due to an earthquake.
Tenant or renter
And if you rent your home, earthquake insurance on your tenant policy will cover your personal property and additional living expenses.
Want more information on earthquakes?
For earthquake information, including what to do during an earthquake, go to the Government of Canada’s website: Earthquakes in Canada. And, if you’d like to learn more about earthquakes across Canada, feel free to read this in-depth article from www.insurancejournal.com.
You can read more about earthquake insurance on Square One’s earthquake insurance page.
Want to learn more? Visit our Home Insurance Basics resource centre for dozens of helpful articles to guide you through the ins and outs of home insurance. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.
About the expert: Daniel Mirkovic
A co-founder of Square One with 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, Daniel was previously vice president of the insurance and travel divisions at the British Columbia Automobile Association. Daniel has a bachelor of commerce and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. He holds a Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker (CAIB) designation and a general insurance license level 3 in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.
About the expert: Stefan Tirschler
Stefan is responsible for underwriting leadership, market expansion, and product research and development for Square One's operations. Stefan has earned his Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional designation, and maintains a level 2 general insurance license in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Stefan is also an Education Committee member and CIP/GIE instructor for the Insurance Institute of Canada.