First came the cracking sounds. Then the pictures tumbled off the wall. Vases shattered and houses moved back and forth. Debbie Saathoff, 62, of Bowie, Md., was never more scared in her life. When a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia rocked the East Coast on Aug. 23, 2011, it was something Saathoff and millions of others had never experienced before. The quake damaged businesses and homes. People quickly found out their homeowner's policy would not pay for repairs. Most standard policies do not include earthquake coverage. A homeowner has to buy special protection for the temblors [source: New].
Unlike standard insurance policies, the deductible for earthquake coverage is not a fixed dollar amount. Instead, it's a percentage, usually from 2 to 20 percent of the structure's replacement value. The price for coverage is different in each region and the type of structure. Premiums could be as low as $300 a year for new buildings, and much more for older structures [source: New].