Got Earthquake Insurance? Businesses Should AssesS Their Readiness for “The Big One” and Other Natural Disasters

By Loretta L. Worters, Vice President – Media Relations, Insurance Information Institute

Every year businesses temporarily shut down – or close forever – because of a disaster.  The 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes which struck near Ridgecrest, California late last week are stark reminders of a quake’s ability to disrupt a business’ operations. Even though many California businesses are in seismically active areas, only one out of 10 commercial buildings are insured for quakes, according to the California Department of Insurance.

Depending upon a business’ location, the threat to its operations may come from risks other than earthquakes, such as a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire. Forty-plus percent of U.S. small businesses do not reopen after a disaster impacts them, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates. But by taking measures to prepare, businesses can increase their chance of recovering financially from a disaster.

Steps businesses can take in the aftermath of this month’s southern California earthquakes:

1) Review Insurance Coverage: It is important businesses have the right amount and types of insurance for their needs and risk profile. There are two types of policies that can be purchased by a business owner.

  • A Businessowners Policy (BOP) is commonly purchased by small businesses. BOP policies combine property, liability, and business interruption coverages in one policy and are usually less comprehensive than a commercial multiple peril (CMP) policy. Business interruption coverage, also known as business income insurance, reimburses a business owner for lost profits and continuing fixed expenses during the time a business stays closed because of a covered event, such as a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire.
  • A Commercial Multiple Peril (CMP) policy combines several coverages—such as property, boiler and machinery, and general liability—into a single policy. It is typically less expensive to buy a CMP policy than to buy these coverages individually. Boiler and machinery insurance, also known as Equipment Breakdown Insurance, also usually extends to air conditioners, heating, electrical, telephone, and computer systems.
  • Commercial Earthquake Insurance Is Sold Separately: Earthquake-caused property damage and business interruption is not covered under either a standard BOP or CMP policy. Businesses in earthquake-prone parts of the U.S. must consider a separate policy or an endorsement to an existing policy which specifically mentions earthquake-caused damage. Earthquake insurance carries a percentage deductible ranging from 10 percent to 15 percent.

There are some areas of a business that automatically include coverage for earthquakes.  Commercial auto provides coverage for loss or damage from temblors.  This can include damage from falling debris, fire, or other events.  Injury to employees at work because of an earthquake is also a covered loss under workers’ compensation insurance.

2) Develop a Business Recovery Plan: Businesses that are forced to close following a disaster run the risk of never being able to open their doors again. But by developing a business disaster recovery plan, they will be able to determine how their operations will be restored after a natural or operational disaster. Moreover, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) offers a free, customizable toolkit to help businesses plan for any type of business interruption.

3) Take a Business Inventory: Creating a business inventory includes listing equipment, supplies, merchandise, and commercial vehicles. An inventory facilitates the filing of a business insurance claim.

Herein lies the fault:  Businessowners, by their very nature, are risk takers; trailblazers in their respective fields.  Risk-taking is a crucial component of launching and building a successful business, be it with capital investment, hiring employees or marketing strategies. But entrepreneurs who don’t purchase the right type and amount of coverage, including earthquake insurance, end up jeopardizing the enterprise they worked so hard to build, leaving themselves, and their business, on shaky ground.