Numbers of Mo. Homeowners Buying Earthquake Insurance Drops

November 26, 2007

The cost of earthquake insurance has gone up in Missouri, and the number of people buying it has gone down.

Figures from the state Department of Insurance show that earthquake coverage was carried on fewer than 38 percent of the insurance policies for homes, mobile homes and farms last year.

That was down more than 5 percentage points from 2001. During that same time, the average cost of residential earthquake coverage in Missouri rose by 15 percent, according to the department’s figures.

In response, Gov. Matt Blunt created a task force to study the availability and affordability of earthquake insurance, especially near the New Madrid fault.

An earthquake centered near the Missouri Bootheel town of New Madrid produced the largest earthquakes ever in North America between December 1811 and January 1812.

The U.S. Geological Survey has projected there is a 25 percent to 40 percent chance of a magnitude 6.0 earthquake along the New Madrid Fault in roughly the next 50 years, and up to a 10 percent chance during that time of an earthquake similar in strength to the ones in 1811-1812. The fault extends from northeast Arkansas through southeast Missouri into Illinois.

“For both the safety and financial well-being of Missouri citizens, we must come up with the best ways to insure this potential risk and to prevent losses caused by the effects of an earthquake,” Insurance Department Director Doug Ommen said in a written statement.

Ommen is to lead the new task force. Blunt also appointed 17 other members, several of whom represent the insurance industry or various aspects of the building industry. Two are listed as consumer advocates. House and Senate leaders also are to appoint two lawmakers from each chamber to serve on the task force.

The group is to recommend ways to improve structural safety standards, increase insurance coverage for private and public infrastructure and promote economic growth in areas near the New Madrid fault. The task force is expected to submit a preliminary report by Feb. 1.

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