UK Earthquake Insurance – Make Sure Your Buildings Insurance Covers It!

With all our thoughts over the last month focused on the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti, Insurance blogger has investigated the risks to UK homes and property from earthquakes.

You might think that because we do not live in a littoral area of plate tectonic activity, that seismic activity would be minimal, and the risks would be negligible….

However recent trends in the UK have shown the importance of making sure you have this peril covered as part of your basic buildings insurance policy.

On 28th April 2007 an Earthquake measuring 4.3 on the Ricter scale hit the small coastal town of Folkestone in Kent.

The earthquake’s shallow depth and proximity to Folkestone resulted in structural damage in the town, and one woman suffered minor injuries.
Following the earthquake, a total 474 properties were reported as damaged with 73 properties too badly damaged for people to return to, 94 seriously damaged, and 307 suffering from minor structural damage. The Association of British Insurers estimated claims to be in the region of GBP30 million. Only 40 percent of the properties damaged were insured!

It was the largest earthquake experienced in the UK since the 2002 earthquake in Dudley in the West Midlands, and the strongest in the active English Channel / Dover Straits region, since a magnitude 4.4 earthquake in 1950.

The strongest recorded British earthquake was the 1931 Dogger Bank earthquake which measured 6.1 on the Richter scale. Shock waves were recorded across the continent of Europe and Tsunamis hit the East coast of Britain and extended as far as Calais in France causing localised flooding and property damage.

The most destructive earthquake on record in the UK occurred in 1884 in Colchester in Essex. In total the earthquake damaged around 1200 buildings and killed five people.
In 2009 Folkestone was shaken by a smaller magnitude 3.0 quake, located in the same area as the 2007 quake.

Depending upon the intensity of the quake and the following effects are typically experienced in UK earthquakes.
European Earthquake Intensity Scale
3 – Felt by few
4 – Felt by many indoors, windows and doors rattle
5 – Felt by most indoors, small objects fall over
6 – People run out in alarm, slight damage to buildings (plaster cracks)
7 – Moderate damage to buildings (chimneys fall, cracks in walls)

In the UK the areas where risk is higher than average include the West Highlands of Scotland, an arcuate zone running from west of the Pennines from Carlisle to Pembroke, NW Wales and W Cornwall. to the East, keny and East Anglia experience the most shocks.

 Distribution of Earthquakes and their magnitude in the UK

The places in the UK with lowest seismic hazard are Northern Ireland (especially the western counties), NE England and outlying parts of Scotland, including the Orkneys and Outer Hebrides.
All UK Building Insurance policies cover Earthquakes as a basic peril and inlude total loss cover.

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