According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), it is estimated that approximately 500,000 earthquakes occur each year, and about 100,000 of these quakes can be felt. Minor earthquakes occur nearly constantly around the world, and are not limited to the West Coast of the U.S. and Alaska. Because earthquakes cannot be predicted and occur without warning, it is important to understand that they can happen anywhere, anytime.

In anticipation of an earthquake or other natural disaster, be sure to review your insurance policies and work with your Gallagher representative if you have questions on your coverage. Gallagher has assembled this information to assist in the development and evaluation of your earthquake disaster plan, as well as claims reporting information.

Earthquake Planning and Claims Resources

Claims Resources for Home & Property

Earthquakes are natural ground motions caused by the sudden release of energy along faults. The earthquake's energy comes from the stresses of plate tectonics. As the plates move, the rocks on their edges become deformed and are strained until the weakest point, a fault, ruptures and releases the strain. An earthquake's size can be measured by the amount of energy released in that movement.

While scientists aren't able to predict future earthquakes, there are earthquake early warning systems in development that can provide seconds to minutes of warning time before an earthquake occurs.

Earthquake Types

While there are a variety of earthquake types, the type of earthquake depends on the region where it occurs and the geological make-up of that region. The four types of earthquakes are tectonic, volcanic, collapse, and explosion – tectonic earthquakes being the most common. Tectonic earthquakes occur when rocks in the earth's crust break due to geological forces created by movement of tectonic plates.

Another type, volcanic earthquakes, occur in conjunction with volcanic activity. Collapse earthquakes are small earthquakes in underground caverns and mines, and explosion earthquakes result from the explosion of nuclear and chemical devices. To measure motion from large tectonic earthquakes, scientists use GPS because rocks on either side of a fault are offset during this type of earthquake.

Rating Earthquake Strength with the Richter Scale

Earthquakes are measured by the Richter magnitude scale. Developed in 1935, this equipment serves as a mathematical device to compare the size of earthquakes. The magnitude of an earthquake is determined from the logarithm of the amplitude of waves recorded by seismographs. Adjustments are included for the variation in the distance between the various seismographs and the epicenter of the earthquakes. 

Intensity Scale  Description  Effects
Less than 2 Micro Not felt
2-3 Very minor Not felt but recorded
3-4 Minor Often felt, no damage
4-5 Light Shaking observed
5-6 Moderate Some damage
6-7 Strong Damaging over 100-mile area
7-8 Major Serious damage over wider area
Greater than 8 Great Serious damage over several hundred miles

Essential Resources for Earthquake Preparedness

Bookmark these recommended informational sources to help prepare and recover from an earthquake. These are national resources and are not associated with Gallagher.