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Got Earthquake Insurance?

Roughly 15 percent of homeowners in Oklahoma carry earthquake insurance, which might not seem like an extraordinary number. But it’s a 500 percent increase from just three years ago.

Only 3 percent of homeowners carried the insurance in 2011, according to the Oklahoma Department of Insurance, before the strongest earthquake in state history damaged at least 14 homes that November.

Oklahoma Geological Survey recorded 980 quakes in 2012; 2,848 in 2013; and roughly 2,300 so far this year. Most recently, a 3.2 magnitude quake hit Friday morning near of Helena, west of Enid. And that followed five earthquakes Thursday, including a magnitude 2.0 quake northeast of Stillwater.

“It’s not something people worried about before,” said Mark Tedford of Tedford Insurance in Jenks. “Now it is.”

The quakes generally originate in central Oklahoma, where the U.S. Geological Survey increased the “earthquake hazard” last week to the third-highest rating, similar to some of the smaller islands of Hawaii.

While the shaking is sometimes noticeable in northeast Oklahoma, no damage has been reported in this part of the state. But the insurance trend seems to be statewide, Tedford said.

“Most of the new policies at least discuss it,” he said, “and a good number are buying it.”

Ally McGinnis opted out of coverage when she purchased a midtown home in 2009.

“Just recently, with all the activity, we decided to tag it on,” McGinnis said. “The costs were minimal for peace of mind and the protection of our investment.”

It’s not clear how many, if any, insurance claims have been filed on earthquake policies in Oklahoma, officials said. High deductibles might deter claims except for catastrophic damages, which seem unlikely to be caused by the relatively minor quakes hitting Oklahoma in recent months.

The first signs of damage to a house might include cracks in masonry, but it would nearly impossible to trace the cracks back to a particular small earthquake, said Phil Rhees, a Tulsa homebuilder and vice president-treasurer of the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association.

The association’s annual conference this September will include a session about earthquake resistance, but new homes already use foundations that will survive minor quakes, and builders haven’t seen any reason to change their construction methods, Rhees said.

“It seems like we’re already doing the right things, at least for new homes,” he said. “I can’t say how well the older homes will stand up.”

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