Volcano: does your
insurance policy protect you?
SEATTLE – A volcano can be one of the
most destructive forces in nature. Mount St. Helens’ huge blast
in 1980 stacked up $27 million in insured losses – that’s $62
million in today's dollars.
The area around the mountain remains
at a Level 3 Alert as massive steam clouds continue to billow
from the mountain’s crater. As tensions climb, questions about
insurance also are on the rise.
Should a larger eruption occur, projections
show that ash could ascend as high as 20,000 feet and drift as
far as California. Searing hot magma would melt ice and snow,
possibly triggering flash floods and mudflows.
“With all the potential devastation,
people are wondering if their insurance policies will cover damage
from an eruption,” said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president.
“The good news is that damage caused by a blast, lava flows or
ash would be covered. However, there are exclusions specifically
related to earthquake damage, flooding and mudflows.”
Insurance Council and its member companies offer the following
summary and tips for what to do if you are affected by a volcanic
- Most Homeowners
policies provide coverage for property loss caused by volcanic
eruption when it is the result of a volcanic blast, airborne
shockwaves, ash, dust, or lava flow.
- Fire, explosion, or theft resulting from volcanic eruption
also is covered.
- Damage to your vehicle is covered under most automobile
insurance policies if you have Comprehensive coverage at
the time of the loss. Direct, sudden damage to engines from
volcanic ash or dust is covered under most policies. Most policies
do not cover damage that occurs over time and is caused by volcanic
dust or ash. Wear and tear from any circumstance is generally
- A vehicle accident that happens during or after a volcanic
eruption would be covered like any other accident, provided
you have Collision and Liability protection in at the time of
What Isn’t Covered
- Most Homeowners insurance policies do not cover damage from
earthquake, land tremors, landslide, mudflow, or other earth
movement regardless of whether or not the quake is caused by
or causes a volcanic eruption.
- Earthquake coverage is usually available either by endorsement
for an additional charge or by purchasing a separate earthquake
policy. Most insurance companies will not issue earthquake policies
during or immediately after an earthquake.
- Flood damage is not covered under a typical homeowners insurance
policy. Flood coverage is available through the National Flood
Insurance Program, provided the policy is in force prior to
- Damage to land, trees, shrubs, lawns, property in the open,
open sheds or the contents of those open sheds are typically
What To Do
- Avoid prolonged driving in airborne or accumulated volcanic
ash. Volcanic ash or dust can cause severe damage to your engine.
- If your vehicle is exposed to heavy volcanic ash, change your
air filter and have your vehicle checked by a qualified auto
mechanic as soon as possible.
- Do not wipe or brush the ash or dust that accumulates on your
vehicle or windows. Volcanic ash is very abrasive and can easily
scratch your vehicle. Carefully wash the ash from your vehicle
with a stream of water from a garden hose.
- Remove ash from your vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so.
Prolonged exposure to volcanic ash and dust can chemically damage
the paint and glass.
- Remove ash and dust from the roof of your home as soon as
it is safe to do so. Ash is heavy and can cause damage to your
roof or gutters if allowed to accumulate.
NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education
organization funded by member insurance companies serving Oregon,
Washington and Idaho.