Tsunamis aren't common, but when they do happen, they usually cause a lot of damage. A tsunami is a series of long waves that form due to the sudden displacement of ocean water. Thankfully, you can purchase flood insurance to protect yourself and your home from damage caused by tsunamis.

This article will cover:

Will earthquake insurance cover tsunamis?

Earthquake insurance does not cover water damage from tsunamis. Although many tsunamis are caused by earthquakes, earthquake insurance only covers damage directly due to a quake.

Other events known to cause tsunamis include:

  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Underwater detonations
  • Atmospheric shock waves
  • Meteor strikes

You can get coverage against external water, flood or tsunami damage through separate flood insurance.

Does flood insurance cover tsunamis?

A standard home insurance policy doesn't cover damage from a tsunami. However, flood insurance covers flood damage tied to a tsunami. That's important, since waves produce most, if not all, of a tsunami's destruction. You can purchase flood insurance through an insurance company that works with the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP.

NFIP flood insurance policies cover your home and belongings. These policies have maximum limits of $250,000 of building coverage and $100,000 of contents coverage.

States that have the highest risk of tsunamis

Although tsunamis aren't common, they are still a big threat to people who live along or near U.S. coastlines. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, local tsunamis arise about once a year somewhere in the world.

Alaska and Hawaii have seen quite a lot of tsunami activity throughout their histories.Washington, Oregon and northern California, on the other hand, have seen less activity. There have been 34 tsunamis since the 20th century that have together caused more than $1.7 billion in damage to coastal states in the U.S. and its territories.

That's a problem for people who live and work in the Northwestern corner of the U.S. because one of these zones - the Cascadia Subduction Zone - looms just off the coast. In fact, the 600-mile-long fault stretches from Canada's Vancouver Island all the way down to northern California. As a result, tsunamis are more likely to hit the coastal portions of the states in this region than they are to hit any other location in the continental U.S.

Tsunamis on the East Coast

Although tsunamis pose the biggest threat to Americans who live in Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii, that doesn't mean East Coasters are in the clear as far as their risk is concerned.

One reason for this is the majority of low-lying cities along the East Coast aren't prepared to deal with the amount of water a tsunami would dump on them. Tsunamis on the east coast are a rare occurrence but they are possible.

It's important to review your homeowners insurance policy and make sure it will cover as much damage and destruction as possible if disaster strikes. If that doesn't seem to be the case, shop around and see what other insurers will offer.

Tsunami insurance tips

Do you live in an area with a high risk of tsunamis? Here are a few things you should know from an insurance perspective:

  • If a tsunami damages or destroys your home, it'll probably do so through flooding. That's bad news if all you have is standard homeowners or renters insurance. Those policies won't cover flood damage.
  • To ensure you're protected from tsunami damage, buy an adequate amount of flood insurance.
  • Tsunamis and earthquakes often go hand in hand. Because of this, consider buying earthquake insurance, too, if you want to be as protected as possible.

Frequently asked questions

Q: Will my homeowners insurance cover damage caused by a tsunami?

A: For the most part, no, it won't. Standard home insurance policies rarely cover flood damage, and flood damage is the main result of a tsunami.

Q: Where can I buy flood insurance?

A: The federal government offers flood policies through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Some private insurers also sell these policies, although they do so in partnership with the NFIP.

Q: Are tsunamis more likely to hit some states or parts of the U.S. than they are to hit others?

A: Yes. Tsunamis are especially likely to impact Hawaii due to its location. Alaska has an elevated risk of tsunami strikes, too. Other than that, tsunamis are more likely to hit the Pacific Northwest - Washington and Oregon, in particular - than they are to hit any other location in the continental U.S.


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