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Earthquake insurance

Earthquake insurance is a form of property insurance that pays the policyholder in the event of an earthquake that causes damage to the property. An earthquake is a sudden and rapid shaking of the ground caused by the shifting of rocks beneath the earth’s surface. Earthquakes can lead to death, injuries, property damage, loss of shelter and livelihoods and disruption of critical infrastructure.
Most deaths are due to buildings collapsing or to secondary hazards, such as fires, tsunamis, flooding, landslides and release of chemicals or toxic materials.


Planet and Moon
Image by Jens Aber

Earthquakes and coverage

Earthquakes can cause much harm to home structures. They can damage housing foundations and collapse walls; even relatively mild tremors can destroy furnishings and belongings.

India is a country that is prone to major earthquakes.

The earthquake with epicentre in Bhuj, in 2001,was one of the most devastating earthquakes in the Indian history that jolted western India and parts of northern India. The damage from such an earthquake can cause huge loss of life and property.
Most earthquake insurance policies feature a high deductible, which makes this type of insurance useful if the entire home is destroyed, but not useful if the home is merely damaged. Rates depend on location and the probability of an earthquak
e loss. Rates may be lower for homes made of wood, which withstand earthquakes better than homes made of brick.

Determining if you need earthquake insurance is more important than ever—even if you do not live near a fault line.
Not only can earthquakes have an impact far beyond major fault lines. If you are thinking about buying a home in an earthquake prone location, it's advisable to look into the cost of insurance co
verage to understand the home's true cost.

Some questions to determine whether you need earthquake insurance:

  1. Can you afford the cost of rebuilding or repairing your home if it damaged?

  2. Can you replace your personal belongings if they are damaged or destroyed?

  3. Can you afford to pay for temporary housing and other expenses if structural damage makes your home uninhabitable?

Rates for earthquake insurance can vary significantly, from fairly inexpensive in lower risk areas to a relatively high cost in places that are more prone to earthquakes. Deductibles for earthquake insurance plans are higher than those in standard homeowners or renters insurance, usually from 5 to 15 percent of the policy limit.

Earthquake Zones in India
There exist 4 seismic zones in India are marked based on the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes that can occur in that area.
Zone 1 - This zone covers the entire north-eastern India, parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, parts of North Bihar and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Zone 2 - Moderate Damage Risk Zone: This zone covers the remaining parts of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, Union Territory of Delhi, Sikkim, northern parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, parts of Gujarat, and small portions of Maharashtra near the west coast, and Rajasthan.
Zone 3 - This zone covers Kerala, Goa, Lakshadweep islands, and remaining parts of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal, parts of Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Zone 4 - Very Low Damage Risk Zone: This zone covers the rest of the country.

Earthquakes are mainly caused by the sudden release of the stress along the faults in the tectonic plates or the earth’s crust. This pressure builds up due to the movement of tectonic plates and is released in sudden jerky movements, known as an earthquake. The north-eastern region of the country as well as the entire Himalayan belt is susceptible to major earthquakes of magnitude more than 8.0. The main cause of earthquakes in these regions is the movement of the Indian plate towards the Eurasian plate at the rate of about 50 mm per year.


Step 1 : Assess and plan
Find out from local authorities where earthquake risks are highest in your area. Take time to identify the safest places in your home or building, including in each room. Safest places are located away from exterior walls, unsecured partition walls, windows, glass and heavy objects, and open fireplaces. Outside, you are safest in open areas away from both overhead and underground hazards such as trees, telephone poles, buildings.

Step 2 : Reduce risk
If building a new home, avoid building on unstable slopes, weak ground, or on top of, or within 15 metres of, known earthquake faults. Follow earthquake-resistant construction practices for new buildings and homes and repair or retrofit (adapt to make stronger) existing ones. Secure large belongings—such as bookcases, wardrobes or heaters—within your home that could f
all, break or slide in an earthquake.
Step 3 : Prepare and respond
Learn how to run an earthquake drill and practice them regularly. Trust your instincts: when you feel any shaking you feel could be an earthquake, take immediate action. Go to the safest place you have identified, extinguish all flames and move away from windows, glass, exterior walls and unstable objects. If you are indoors, follow the 'drop, cover, hold on' procedure and remain calm.


What damage can earthquakes do?

Ground shaking from earthquakes can cause buildings and bridges to collapse; disrupt gas, electricity, and telephone services; and sometimes trigger landslides, avalanches, flash floods, fires, and tsunami. Damage to buildings is the main cause of financial loss from earthquakes. Collapse of buildings is the main cause of casualties, either through crushing or entrapment. Loss of services is the main cause of people becoming displaced. Buildings with foundations resting on unconsolidated landfill or other unstable soils are at increased risk of damage, as are homes not attached to their foundations.

Physical Land Damage Caused by Earthquakes

Landslides: During an earthquake, rock and soil, especially wet soil, can be jarred loose, causing it to slide downhill. This landslide or mudslide can take out trees, rocks, roads, cars, houses, or anything else in its path.

Ground ruptures: An earthquake can rupture the ground, leaving large cracks or even displacing the ground in large areas.

Tsunamis: If an earthquake happens on the ocean floor it can produce a tsunami, a huge ocean wave, or a series of waves. These waves can travel through the ocean at speeds of 690 km per hour. As they reach shallow water near shore, the height of the waves increases many times.

Liquefaction: Liquefaction can happen when the ground becomes saturated. Due to the shaking from the earthquake, the wet soil and sediment act and move like a liquid instead of a solid.

Fault rupture : It is a relatively rare cause of damage and injury. However, if a fault ruptures to the earth’s surface, any building extending across it will be severely damaged.

Fire : Most earthquakes are not accompanied by fire, but devastating fires have occurred after earthquakes. The critical factors in creating a fire risk are wind, water and weather. If the shaking is strong enough to disrupt the water supply, winds are strong enough to spread the fire across city streets and vegetation is flammable following hot, dry weather then the scene is set for a high level of fire risk.


What to do during an earthquake
If you are inside when the shaking starts, you should:

Drop, cover, and hold on. Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place. Most people injured in earthquakes move more than three meters during the shaking.

If you are elderly or have limited mobility, remain where you are, bracing yourself in place.

If you are in bed, stay there, hold on, and protect your head with a pillow. You are less likely to be injured if you stay in bed. Broken glass on the floor can injure you.

Stay away from windows. Windows can shatter with such force that you can be injured by flying glass even if you are several meters away. Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. In most buildings in New Zealand, you are safer if you stay where you are until the shaking stops. If you go outside after shaking stops, move quickly away from buildings to prevent injury from falling debris.

Be aware that fire alarm and sprinkler systems frequently go off in buildings during an earthquake, even if there is no fire. Check for and extinguish small fires, and exit via the stairs.

If you are in a coastal area, drop, cover and hold on during an earthquake and then move immediately to higher ground when the shaking stops or, if the area is flat move as far inland as possible. Earthquakes off the coast can generate tsunami.

If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, you should:
Find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines.

Drop to the ground and stay there until the shaking stops. Injuries can occur from falling trees, streetlights, power lines, and building debris.

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