Shaken Up? How to Prepare for Next D.C. Earthquake

Shaken Up? How to Prepare for Next D.C. Earthquake
D.C. National Cathedral

D.C. National Cathedral

It’s not everyday an earthquake shakes things up in Washington, D.C., so when a trembler rattled the nation’s capital back in 2011, it caught residents by surprise.

It also left many wondering if they had earthquake insurance.

Earthquake preparedness was the topic at the recent great ShakeOut drill at the city’s National Cathedral in mid-October.

Experts from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Federal Emergency Management Agency spoke about the 5.8 magnitude quake and what residents can do to be better prepared.

"Geologists and seismologists have been working in central Virginia to understand the earthquake and its aftershocks,” says Michael Blanpied, associate coordinator of the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program.

Cathedral Hit Hard with $20M in Damages

The cathedral sustained more than $20 million worth of damage to its pinnacles, buttresses and ceilings from the earthquake, which was centered in central Virginia. The repairs are ongoing.

Local homes also sustained damage, especially susceptible were chimneys that required specific repairs and reinforcements.

What officials have learned since 2011 has helped formulate a better game plan for the future.

“Results from that research have been incorporated into the 2014 update to the National Seismic Hazard Map,” Blanpied says.

It’s a good time to plan a personal hazard map for your home and find the proper insurance coverage, so you're protected from a future earthquake, another natural disaster or just a busted water pipe. It also wouldn't hurt to have that chimney looked at, too.

Tips for earthquake recovery

  • Be prepared to spend. The lowest price insurance might not cover you, but there are ways to save on homeowner's insurance.
  • Replacement cost insurance covers the cost of replacing your home and is generally the policy for most homeowners. Most agents will allow 20 percent to 25 percent more insurance than your replacement cost to cover debris disposal and other ancillary expenses.
  • Read your policy thoroughly, and take careful notes about stipulations, contingencies and situations that could disqualify a claim or compromise coverage.
  • Ask specifically about insurance policy stipulations for storm, water, mold, wind and flood. In the past 10 years, insurance companies have increasingly changed the language about these specific items.
  • Learn the difference between equivalent and like/kind replacement and find out what your policy offers. Like/kind replacement means a damaged wood-shingled roof will be replaced with a wood-shingled roof. Equivalent means the replacement roof might not be wood-shingled.
  • Get loss-of-use coverage for rent or hotel fees in case your home is uninhabitable after a catastrophe.

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