Earthquakes For Members

Should you insure your Swiss home against earthquakes?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Should you insure your Swiss home against earthquakes?
Whether you should take out an earthquake insurance depends on where you live. Image by Angelo Giordano from Pixabay

Switzerland is not free from the risk of earthquakes and in certain parts of the country where the possibility of a tremor causing major damage is real. So should you get house insurance to cover this risk?


Fortunately, major earthquakes are rare in Switzerland: they occur on average once every 100 years, with the last taking place in 1946 just north of Sierre, in canton Valais.

Although the tremor, which registered 5.8 on the Richter scale was considered serious by Swiss standards — it claimed three lives and caused millions of francs' worth of damage — it wasn’t nearly as deadly as the magnitude 7.8 earthquake and a series of strong tremors and aftershocks that devastated parts of Turkey and Syria.

Which areas of Switzerland are most at risk for earthquakes?

Seismic activity is common in Switzerland, although most of it goes unnoticed by the population.

Valais is the canton with the highest earthquake risk, followed by Basel and Graubünden.

"More earthquakes occur in Valais than anywhere else in Switzerland. The region therefore has the country's highest seismic hazard," according to Swiss Seismological Service (SED), which is responsible for monitoring earthquakes in Switzerland and its neighbouring countries, and for assessing Switzerland’s seismic hazard.


"Over the past 10 years, the SED has recorded an average of around 270 earthquakes per year in Valais and its immediate surroundings, of which only two or three a year were felt by local residents," it added.

Valais is more prone to earthquakes because of its mountainous topography, which is also the case of Graubünden.

As for Basel, its susceptibility to earthquakes has to do with the geological structure of the Rhine Plain, according to SED, which points out that “after Valais, the area around Basel the second highest seismic hazard zone in Switzerland." 

This SED map shows which parts of Switzerland are most susceptible to earthquakes:

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Which parts of Switzerland are vulnerable to earthquakes?

In a worst case scenario, natural disaster experts in Valais believe a 6.5 magnitude earthquake striking between the cities of Sion and Sierre could leave 800 dead, 1,600 buildings destroyed, and 119,000 people homeless.

And if this extreme scenario can statistically occur every 475 years, an earthquake of lower magnitude, around 6 on the Richter scale, is likely to occur in Valais in the coming decades, experts say.

READ MORE:  '1,600 buildings destroyed?' What could happen if the Swiss canton of Valais is hit by a big earthquake?

So should you take out an earthquake insurance in Switzerland?

It depends on where you live and how risk-averse you are.

According to Moneyland consumer platform, “taking out buildings insurance from a designated cantonal buildings insurance provider is compulsory in 19 cantons (all but Geneva, Valais, Ticino, Obwalden, Uri, Schwyz and Appenzell Innerrhoden)." 

Seventeen of these insurance providers participate in a joint Swiss pool for earthquake insurance. Zurich operates its own earthquake insurance pool, Moneyland says.

This joint earthquake venture "compensates homeowners in the covered cantons in the event that their homes are damaged by major earthquakes."

But only damages caused by earthquakes measuring at least 7 on Richter scale are covered.

If you live in one of the cantons not covered by the insurance, or if you want supplemental coverage, then you can buy it on your own.

As Moneyland puts it, “the primary advantages of private earthquake insurance is that it generally covers damages caused by all earthquakes – including minor ones. Another advantage is that, depending on the policy, you may be able to select a much lower deductible than the one applicable to earthquake pools."

In cantons which do not have compulsory buildings insurance or which doesn’t have an earthquake pool, private earthquake insurance "provides the only way to insure your home against earthquake damages."


How much does such a policy cost and where to buy it?

“Unlike compulsory insurance, the premiums for voluntary earthquake insurance vary broadly based on the insurance provider and the risk of earthquakes in your region. Requesting multiple insurance quotes and comparing the premiums, terms and conditions before you buy is recommended,” Moneyland says.

You can shop around, starting with these two providers:

Zurich insurance 


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