Insurance coverage of potential earthquake damages
Although earthquakes are relatively rare, they pose a huge threat to Switzerland. Given the country's dense settlement and high material assets, the damage potential is extremely high. Reinsurers estimate that a repetition of the 1356 Basel earthquake would cause losses of between CHF 50 and 100 billion. Many property owners would face financial ruin in such an event. The indicator specifies the maximum sum for which earthquake damage should be covered.
Earthquake losses are not covered by the mandatory fire and natural disaster insurance and are only covered on a voluntary basis. For this reason, 17 cantonal buildings insurance companies joined forces in 1978 to form the umbrella organization Swiss pool for earthquake insurance which provides voluntary insurance cover for earthquake damage. The cover provided by the earthquake insurance pool is currently CHF 2 billion; a further CHF 2 billion is currently available in the event of a second earthquake in the same year. The Zurich cantonal buildings insurance company covers earthquake losses (mandatory). The available cover is CHF 1 billion per event.
As opposed to this, there are no funds for the voluntary cover of losses in the aftermath of an earthquake in the remaining eight cantons. The cover provided by private insurance policies has not been surveyed up to now.
Overall, current insurance benefits only cover a small part of the earthquake risk. While an increasing cover would be desirable, a trend for decreasing cover has actually been observed in recent years. For this reason the state and development of this indicator are evaluated as negative.
The introduction of mandatory earthquake insurance has been addressed repeatedly and has been the subject of controversy. Due to the lack of unanimity among the cantons, it is not possible to introduce mandatory insurance by agreement at present. In addition, the Confederation cannot impose such a mandatory measure without changing the Constitution and cannot contribute financially to any solution reached through an intercantonal convention.
The data are surveyed through regular checks by the Earthquake Mitigation department of the FOEN’s Major Accidents and Earthquake Mitigation Section (direct contact with insurance companies, involvement in the response to parliamentary initiatives).
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