No earthquake policy? Your loss may still be insured

Lots of Southcentral residents faced scenes like this, but some homes were more seriously damaged, with plumbing floods and fire. (Photo: via Facebook, used with permission).

You probably don’t have earthquake insurance. Fewer than 20 percent of Alaska homeowners do, according to state estimates. But if your property was damaged, you may still have options to get compensation.

Homeowners’ insurance doesn’t usually cover earthquake damage, but standard policies often extend to events that immediately follow an earthquake, like if a water pipe broke and flooded your home. Division of Insurance Director Lori Wing-Heier said homeowners should make a report to their insurance companies and see what they say.

“The broken pipe itself would not be covered because that was part of the quake,” Wing-Heier said. “But perhaps the water damage from the pipe will be covered.”

Wing-Heier also suggests checking on rental properties and storage units. And, she said, don’t forget about your car insurance.

“If you have your auto parked in the garage,” she said, “and your auto is … damaged, because a bookshelf or whatever fell over on it. Well, that auto policy might respond.”

For uninsured losses, the state may be able to help you. The governor’s disaster declaration frees up money for Individual Assistance Grants, for people whose homes, property or cars were damaged in the quake. You can apply at ready.Alaska.gov.

The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is also standing up a hotline to assist grant applicants, starting Tuesday, Dec. 4. That number is 1-855-445-7131. The Division advises taking pictures before you clean up and saving receipts from earthquake-related expenses.

The deadline to apply for Individual Assistance Grants is Jan. 29.