July 26, 2005                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      Helena, Mont., July 26, 2005 - Yesterday's earthquake rattled Montanans' nerves and came as a jarring reminder that earthquake damage is not covered by homeowners policies. State Auditor John Morrison is reminding Montanans that the time for homeowners to be sure they're covered is before a damaging quake hits, not after.
      "Montana is earthquake country," said Morrison. "We sit in one of the most seismically active regions in the lower 48 states. Folks should be prepared for earthquakes from a safety standpoint, and also from an insurance standpoint."
      Although earthquake coverage is not automatic, it may be available to Montana homeowners and business owners as an add-on to their existing policy.
      The most common type of earthquake insurance is normally added separately to standard homeowners' insurance policies. Typically there is a deductible of 5 to 10 percent of the value of the house. This means that for a home currently insured at $200,000, the homeowner would have to pay $10,000 to $20,000 on damages before the insurance company would pay anything. The yearly cost of residential earthquake insurance is normally about $1.50 to $3.00 Per $1,000 of coverage on the structure, depending on the type of construction and the condition of the property. Separate deductibles may apply to contents and structure.
      "If in doubt, homeowners should check with their agent to be certain they are covered for earthquake damage," said Morrison. "Montanans can also call my office if they have questions about earthquake insurance. We are not only the best source for all insurance-related questions, but we also have the best understanding of the insurance issues specific to Montana."
      With the strongest quake ever recorded in the northern Rockies, western Montana has a history of large damaging earthquakes. The 1959 quake that uplifted Hebgen Lake near Yellowstone measured 7.3 on the Richter scale. That magnitude thrust the 1959 quake into the record books as one of the ten largest earthquakes ever recorded in the contiguous United States.
      Anyone with insurance-related questions or concerns is invited to contact the Montana State Auditor's Office at 1-800-332-6148 or 444-2040 in Helena or at www.sao.mt.gov.
      John Morrison offers the following earthquake-related tips:
      Prepare your home for earthquakes
      Most structural damage in earthquakes comes from the side-to-side rocking motion. Newer structures are built to withstand this motion but older homes may not be. At a minimum, check to see that:

  • Your home is bolted to the foundation;
  • Support walls are braced with plywood. Support walls are short sections of wall between the floors of your home and the foundation;
  • The water heater is secured with metal straps;
  • Gas, electricity and water shut-off valves are working and accessible;
  • Flexible connectors are installed where gas lines meet appliances.
      Protect Your Possessions
      These basics steps will help protect your personal possessions during an earthquake:
  • Install latch devices on cabinet doors;
  • Securing hanging items to wall studs;
  • Remove all glass items from sleeping areas;
  • Put heavy objects and breakable items on lower shelves;
  • Anchor bookcases and other heavy furniture to the wall studs with bolts and angle brackets.
      Remain Safe During and After Earthquakes
      Everyone in your family should know where to go and what to do when a quake strikes. They should drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture and hold onto it so that it doesn't slide away. Identify -- in advance -- safe spots in every room when you can quickly take cover.
      You should have at least three -- preferably seven -- days worth of food and water for everyone in your family. Don't forget to include your pets in this equation. Your emergency supplies should include:
      Flashlights, batteries, a fire extinguisher, a battery-operated radio, a first aid kit, blankets/sleeping bags, matches, extra clothing, items for personal hygiene, money, necessary medicine and eye glasses.
      Each family should have an emergency plan. Discuss escape routes with your family. Make plans on where to meet if the family is separated when an earthquake strikes. And make sure all members of the family know where supplies are located and how to turn off gas and electricity.
      After The Earthquake -- When the shaking has stopped:
  • Check for injuries to your family and in your neighborhood. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in danger of further injury.
  • Check for fires or fire hazards.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects touched by the downed wires.
  • Check for damaged utilities. Inspect for leaking gas lines by smell only; do not use candles, matches, or other open flames.
  • If water pipes break shut off the main valve, which brings water into the house.
  • Check your chimney over its entire length for cracks and damage, particularly in the attic and at the roofline. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire or collapse in aftershocks. The initial check should be made from a distance. Approach your chimneys with caution.
  • Check closets and storage shelf areas. Open closet and cupboard areas carefully and watch for objects falling from shelves.
  • Inspect your foundation for cracks and damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to subsequent flooding or water damage after a rainfall or spring snows melt.
  • Call your insurance agent if your home or property suffered damage in the earthquake, it may or may not be covered depending on the type of coverage you have.
      Anyone with insurance-related questions or concerns is invited to contact the Montana State Auditor's Office at 1-800-332-6148 or 444-2040 in Helena or at www.sao.mt.gov.