Among natural disasters to strike the United States, tsunamis are the most poorly understood. Most people associate these devastating events with countries like Thailand or Japan; in fact, recent disasters in those countries gained worldwide attention.
The fact is that tsunamis can and DO strike U.S. coastlines, and their effects can cause severe damage and destruction. Property owners seeking information on protecting their investments may not realize what is and is not covered by homeowner’s insurance, and this article will go over considerations in protecting against tsunamis and the flooding they can cause.
What is a Tsunami?
Tsunamis are dangerously high waves created by earthquakes that occur on the deep ocean floor. When an earthquake occurs, the resultant shock wave can send rogue ocean waves hundreds or even thousands of miles away and cause severe damage to coastal areas. Over the past 150 years, a number of tsunamis have struck cities on the U.S. coast, including Oregon, Hawaii, Alaska, California, and Puerto Rico, just to name a few.
Many coastal areas have installed warning systems to alert residents of an impending tsunami. It is critical that people heed these early warnings and get to safety as soon as possible. Tsunamis can be devastating, causing damage and death for coastal residents.
Is there Tsunami Insurance?
In simple terms, no, there is not specialized “tsunami insurance”. Tsunamis can cause a wide range of damage, including flooding, damage or destruction of buildings, and loss of life. Each of these damage factors may be covered by separate insurance policies, but there is no blanket coverage specifically for tsunamis. Luckily, there are other insurance options for property owners living in coastal areas.
How Can I Protect My Home Against Tsunamis?
Flooding is the most common form of damage caused by a tsunami striking the coast. In the United States, flood insurance is available. Flood insurance is available through many insurance companies, but the only provider is the U.S. government itself through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The flood insurance program is administered by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Authority.
Despite regular flooding events occurring throughout the country (including coastlines prone to hurricane and tsunami damage), it is estimated that only about 10% of homeowners in the U.S. have flood insurance policies through the NFIP. The program does have coverage limits, however. For possessions, the coverage is capped at $100,000. The structural damage coverage is limited to $250,000. This may not be sufficient to cover all losses in the event of a flooding disaster. There may be additional umbrella policies issued by private insurance firms, but these tend to be hard to find and prohibitively expensive.
Speak to a qualified insurance agent to learn more about flood insurance and any additional coverages that may be available. Waiting for a tsunami to occur before protecting property means it is too late – it is far better to have flood insurance coverage in place before disaster strikes.