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More seek earthquake insurance, after Mexico, Southern Idaho, Utah quakes

More seek earthquake insurance, after Mexico, Southern Idaho, Utah quakes (Photo: MGN)

(KUTV) It may not be a groundbreaking movement, but more people in Utah are apparently looking for earthquake insurance.

Several agents said calls for it have picked up since the big earthquake in Mexico, and smaller ones in southern Idaho, and along the Wasatch front.

"I follow the signs of the times," said Tony Gutierrez, who owns an old brick house in Sugarhouse.

"If a big earthquake hits, what do you think happens?" 2News asked.

"What's going to happen to all the brick homes, same thing---tumbling down," he said.

Gutierrez has quake coverage, but chances are, few others in his neighborhood do.

Todd Kiser, Utah Insurance Commissioner, estimated just 5 to 10% of Utah homeowners have earthquake coverage.

"There's been a spike in phone calls," said Creed Anderson, an insurance agent, who suspected recent disasters---including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria---may be factors. "It gets the attention of people."

In terms of pricing, there are apparently fault lines over earthquake coverage.

The Utah Department of Insurance put out a comparison table of the annual cost, which is often added to a homeowner policy as an "endorsement."

The comparison showed, for a $250,000 house, earthquake insurance could be as low as $250 a year; but it could also reach as high as $3400, depending on the insurance company.

Deductibles range from 5% to 20%. Remarkably, the $250 policy was said to have a deductible at 5%.

Meantime, a program in Salt Lake City, "Fix the Bricks," has taken aim at retrofitting brick homes, which may be the most vulnerable in a big earthquake, to make them hold up better to shaking.

"They drive down pins…to actually attach the roof to the house," said Catherine Lilly, an attorney, who owns a 113 year old brick home, the first to get a seismic upgrade under the program. "A lot of these roofs are not really attached to these old houses."

She said the improvements would ensure her walls and roof shake together, but the house would still sustain damage. She thought it would give her a few more minutes to get of the house.

Audrey Pierce, with Salt Lake City's Emergency Management Office, said a FEMA grant provides money for the upgrades. "Fix the Bricks" pays 75% of the cost of improvements, homeowners pay 25%.

But getting the benefit could be an exercise in patience. In the first year, the city had money for 50 homes, according to Pierce, but 600 people applied. She said this year the target is 100 homes.

If you live in Salt Lake, own a brick home, and would to sign up, the program site is http://www.bereadyslc.com/fix-the-bricks. There are no income restrictions.

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