Shake, rattle, insure

In 2011, Doak stood in front of a room full of angry and shaken Lincoln County residents and could offer little more than apologies.

It was shortly after a record 5.6-magnitude earthquake rattled more than just nerves that the state’s top insurance agent was there, hat in hand, with little more than comforting words.

Of the 14 homes that were destroyed and dozens more that were damaged, there was insurance coverage in place for just a fraction of the damage.

It was not a good feeling for Doak and his staff.

“No, sir, it was not,” Doak says, recalling that morning.

On the heels of a swarm of
temblors in our state, Doak has this simple message for residents and
business owners alike: find out if you have earthquake coverage and then
decide if it’s worth it to you.

“With
the value of homes today, if you don’t have earthquake insurance or
have made that educated decision, then you, as the consumer, are
self-insuring,” Doak says. “And that portion could be significant. It’s
always better to be educated and make the decision than to be surprised
later.”

The U.S.
Geological Survey reports that between January 2009 and October 2013,
there were more than 200 earthquakes in Oklahoma with a magnitude of 3.0
or greater. The USGS further reports Oklahoma had an average of 40
earthquakes per year during that time, which was an increase of the two
to six reported yearly from 1975 to 2008.

With
those statistics in mind, Doak’s office put the word out in late
October 2013, urging Oklahomans to revisit their coverage with their
insurance agents. He wants people to know homeowner’s and renter’s
policies do not automatically cover earthquake or flood damage.

The coverage may be available by endorsement or through a separate policy.

Either way, deductibles typically run much higher than traditional homeowner’s policies, and premiums can vary widely.

Doak
says his office is working on posting the earthquake endorsements for
each company doing business in Oklahoma on the Oklahoma Insurance
Department’s website.

The
reality of just how underinsured and uninformed people are about
earthquakes really hit home for Doak when representatives from the state
of California came to Lincoln County to film a public service
announcement. He also learned a surprising fact about the
earthquake-prone Golden State: less than 10% of Californians opt to
purchase earthquake insurance.

“If you thought of earthquakes or tremors, typically California is the first state to come to mind,” he says.

In reality, he says Oklahoma’s consumers simply aren’t informed.

That’s where Dan Ramsey, president and CEO of Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma, comes in.

With
500 member agencies in all 77 counties and in 175 communities in
Oklahoma, Ramsey’s Trusted Choice agents are a first line of defense.

An
insurance agent since 1972, Ramsey can’t remember a time when the state
has seen this much activity from the 150-milelong New Madrid fault
line.

“The job of the
agent is to make them (homeowners) aware,” he says. “It’s not to coerce
them or anything else. It’s the agent’s job to let them make that choice
and take that risk.”

And either way, there is a risk. Foregoing quake coverage has the possibility of resulting in a total homeowner loss.

Taking
out earthquake insurance comes with additional premiums, which could
range from $60 to several hundred dollars per year, that carry a much
higher deductible.

There are choices, and Doak just wants to make sure people make one.

“We’re not advising folks to rush out and purchase coverage,” he says. “I’m suggesting they rush out and become educated.”

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