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After Quakes, Inspecting Roads, Trains And Insurance Policies

DART officials say the Orange Line, which runs through Irving, did not suffer damage from this week's earthquakes in Irving.

The shake, rattle and roll of a dozen earthquakes this week in Irving has highway crews checking bridges and homeowners inspecting homes. While there hasn’t been any significant damage to homes, some are wondering about earthquake insurance.

Some insurance companies will attach an earthquake coverage rider or endorsement to a homeowner’s policy. Mark Hanna with the Insurance Council of Texas says it’s rare in Texas, not known as a hot spot for earthquakes. The premiums may not cost much, maybe $100 a year for a $200,000 home. Hanna says the serious hit comes if you actually have to use the policy. 

“The one thing about earthquake insurance, you have a high deductible. You could be looking at several thousand dollars out of your pocket before the actual coverage would kick in,” Hanna said. “So you’ve got to have a pretty major earthquake to cause some major damage that would call for the coverage.”

Hanna says the deductible could be upwards of 5 percent of the value of the home. 

On its website, Kilpatrick Insurance of Fort Worth puts the deductible as high as 15 percent, and says because the deductible is figured on the value of the home, using earthquake insurance may not be economically advantageous if the home is only damaged, not destroyed.  Nothing close to that has happened in North Texas.

Hanna expects this swarm will spark a lot more interest in earthquake insurance, but it’s hard to tell if that will translate to actual policy purchases.

On the roads and rails, Morgan Lyons with DART says the light-rail Orange Line through Irving was unfazed by the shaking.

“Our system was built to withstand certainly seismic activity of this magnitude,” Lyons says. “We do daily inspections. The folks who do the inspections are certainly aware of what’s going on and are paying close attention for anything that might be unusual as a result of the recent seismic activity.”

And on the roads, Tony Hartzel with the Texas Department of Transportation says crews doing their regular daily inspection routes haven’t found any quake damage. He’s confident in the strength and stability of Texas bridges even though state construction standards don’t even mention earthquakes.

“There’s not a specific standard, but the bridges are definitely built to withstand stresses, such as these earthquakes,” Hartzel says.

Hartzel says the Dallas TxDOT office has begun a conversation with the bridge division in Austin about protocol for earthquakes.  He says so far the advice is to keep doing regular inspections with an eye toward anything unusual.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.