HomeRenters InsuranceLocal News: Earthquake insurance coverage low despite risks (3/16/23)

Local News: Earthquake insurance coverage low despite risks (3/16/23)

Those gathered at the 2023 Earthquake Summit in Portageville include Sen. Jason Bean, as well as city and county officials from across Southeast Missouri.

DAR/Donna Farley

PORTAGEVILLE — The cost of earthquake insurance has increased 352% in Southeast Missouri since 2000. This is in a region where building codes often struggle to meet the most up-to-date damage prevention measures for a higher magnitude tremblor.

Yet the cost of insurance is still not astronomical, according to Dr. J. Brian Houston with the University of Missouri Disaster and Community Crisis Center. Houston was among more than a dozen speakers presenting Thursday during the 2023 Earthquake Summit held at Portageville, which is the largest event of its kind in the nation.

“The average cost in Cape Girardeau County (for earthquake insurance) is $174 per year,” Houston told the more than 400 local, regional, state and federal officials.

Only about one-third of homeowners surveyed recently in Southeast Missouri counties with high earthquake damage risk have earthquake insurance, Houston explained. For renters, the number is 10% or less.

Presenters from University of Missouri, Missouri Department of Commerce and Insurance, Center for Insurance Policy and Research and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners spoke about the need to provide additional education on earthquake potential in New Madrid Seismic Zone and move the needle on preparedness.

“Here we are in a very at-risk area, where lots of people may not have the insurance (they) need to protect their homes,” said Houston.

Counties from Ripley to Cape Girardeau fall into the high and highest damage risk areas, along with the Bootheel and sections of Arkansas, Tennessee and Illinois along those boundaries.

Less than half of the people surveyed realized earthquake insurance plans were a separate addition to their basic home or renters insurance, Houston added.

There is a 25-40% possibility of a magnitude 6 or greater earthquake occurring in the NMSZ in the next 50 years, presenters said. Closing the information gap was part of the hope behind Thursday’s presentation — the more people hear and talk about the possibility of a damaging earthquake with friends, loved ones or insurance agents, the more likely they are to be prepared, Houston explained.

Thursday’s event helps the region understand how to direct efforts for cities and departments, according to Barry Blevins, Sikeston city community development director. Blevins’ job relates to the issuance of building permits.

In the event of an earthquake, he believes the knowledge and relationships made through the summit could help Sikeston more quickly assess damaged buildings and homes.

“(Then) we could get people back in (their properties) as fast as we could,” said Blevins, who was joined at the event by other Sikeston officials, including two fire marshals.

Sikeston’s building codes, like other Southeast Missouri communities, are directed by the International Building Code.

Information on earthquake risks and awareness can help direct how those building codes progress, according to Blevins, who indicated the cost to build to more stringent earthquake standards would be “astronomical.”

It’s something that has to be balanced against the ability for businesses and homeowners in Southeast Missouri to undertake new construction, he explained.

The information and relationships formed during the summit can also help communities prepare for other natural disasters, Blevins added. For Sikeston, flooding is a concern, along with the management of storm water systems and building along flood planes.

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