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Introduction to Earthquake Insurance

What is an Earthquake?

An earthquake is caused by a sudden shift between two tectonic plates on the earth’s surface. Stresses in the earth's outer layer push the sides of the plates together, releasing energy in waves that travel through the earth's crust and cause the shaking that we feel during an earthquake.

California is located on two particular plates: the Pacific, and the North American Plate. The Pacific Plate consists of most of the Pacific Ocean floor and the California coastline. The North American Plate is comprised of most of the North American Continent and parts of the Atlantic Ocean floor. One particularly volatile area between these two plates is the San Andreas Fault, which runs more than 650 miles long and extends to depths of at least 10 miles. Many other smaller faults like the Hayward (Northern California) and the San Jacinto (Southern California) branch from and join the San Andreas Fault Zone.

The Pacific Plate grinds northwestward past the North American Plate at a rate of about two inches per year. Parts of the San Andreas Fault system adapt to this movement by constant "creep," resulting in many tiny shocks and a few moderate earth tremors. In other areas where creep is NOT constant, strain can build up for hundreds of years, producing great earthquakes when it finally releases. For further information, see the USGS General Interest Publication “Earthquakes.”

What is Earthquake Insurance?

Earthquake insurance is an insurance policy that provides coverage against damages arising from earth movement as the result of an earthquake.

 

"One particularly volatile area [...] is the San Andreas Fault, which runs more than 650 miles long and extends to depths of at least 10 miles. "

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