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Insurance agents in parts of Oklahoma say they are answering more questions from property owners about earthquake coverage these days, according to the Enid News & Eagle. This trend seems to be the result of a sustained increase in seismic activity in the state.

Data shows dramatic increase in frequency of noticeable earthquakes

Citing data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Associated Press reported that Oklahoma experienced five earthquakes with a magnitude of at least 3.0 during a three-hour period on June 26. From 1978 to 2008, Oklahoma averaged two earthquakes of this strength per year.

The increase in frequency has prompted local news source KOCO to declare Oklahoma "the earthquake capitol of the Lower 48." The state had recorded 174 earthquakes with a magnitude of at least 3.0 this year, as of June 26. That's almost double the number recorded in California, but still far less than Alaska, which had 477.

Scientists have been exploring a possible connection between the increased frequency of earthquakes in Oklahoma and several other states and the injection of waste water from oil and gas production into deep underground wells. However, studies have been unable to generate conclusive evidence of a causative relationship.

Property owners asking more questions about earthquake coverage

Kenneth Byrd, an agent with Oklahoma Farm Bureau based in Alva, said the number of inquiries about earthquake insurance that his office handles has increased considerably. "It's probably more in the last six months than what we did in the previous two or three years," he told the News & Eagle.

Both Byrd and another agent working in Alva, Mike Hood of Schuessler Insurance & Real Estate, indicated that they are getting more questions, particularly in the wake of periods of elevated seismic activity, but they say that they aren't doing much more business. Hood said that during the last wave of inquiries about earthquake coverage, his company "had maybe a dozen people call. And we've only had maybe two people actually purchase it."

Nathan Crow, a Medford-based agent with Farmers Insurance, said his firm is "recommending that everyone carries earthquake on their policy, if it's available to them."

"We've contacted our current customers and let them know that (earthquake coverage) is available and that it does not come standard with the policy but it can be endorsed," Crow told the News & Eagle, adding that it's currently "very, very affordable. So, for the little amount of money that they typically do cost, it kind of seems like a no-brainer to me."

In contrast to the comments made by other agents, Crow said he's found that property owners readily embrace this line of thinking, with about 60 percent of his policyholders having either purchased earthquake insurance or added it to their existing coverage. Other agents pointed to the size of deductibles, which typically start at 2 percent of the property's replacement cost value, as a factor that is dissuading owners from purchasing earthquake coverage.

None of the agents interviewed by the News & Eagle said they have actually received a claim stemming from earthquake damage. Regardless, insurance carriers always need to be prepared for potential losses. Implementing a single valuation system that can provide accurate replacement cost values for residential, commercial and farm & ranch properties helps ensure that property owners are covered for the full cost of replacing their structure.