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Many Americans live in places where natural or man-made disasters can force them to evacuate on relatively short notice, and find somewhere else to stay for long enough to ride out some hazard. If that hazard destroyed their primary home, homeowners' or renters' insurance can help cover that situation. However, in the case where evacuation was seen as being the best option for preserving one's own health but where there is not significant damage to one's normal home or property there, the evacuee may still be stuck with all those costs of the evacuation, and a claim on homeowners or renters insurance may be viewed as infeasible due to the "small-dollar" aspect.

An example might be those living near wildfires in California, those living in flood/hurricane zones, those living near volcanoes predicted to erupt soon, or those affected but not killed by a nuclear event. A solar storm or cyber attack taking out utilities in a region might also prompt some to leave; an epidemic (in which it's easy to tell who's infected) might as well. Events like an earthquake, 9/11, or the 2016 Paris attacks might lead local area residents to leave temporarily until the dust settles and it can be verified that the area is safe to return to.

If an evacuee needed to fly somewhere to connect with family or other willing hosts, the flight ticket might be pricey last-minute fares. Hotels might also be relatively expensive when booked last-minute during high demand. (Potential destinations for evacuation could be specified in advance.)

There is a category of insurance (or at least insurance-like) products called "home warranties" which have much lower deductibles and lower typical claim amounts than homeowners insurance, intended for e.g. a major appliance breakdown, which provides better budget predictability and is helpful to many customers.

Is there a similar insurance product that covers the costs of evacuation from one's home location?
Travel insurance products that cover evacuation while on a trip away from home do not count as good answers to this question.

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    These are comments, which is why they aren't an Answer: (1) There was no such "cost of evacuation" insurance during Katrina. (2) "Most Americans cannot afford a surprise expense in the range of $500-$1000." That's why you need an Emergency Fund. – RonJohn Oct 15 '17 at 4:00
  • @RonJohn For (1) it could have existed even if most people affected by that storm hadn't purchased it. For (2) I agree that first statement is a significant problem, but clearly most people don't have that fund and might be willing to pay a fixed monthly amount to a risk-sharing pool (covering a particular set of risks). – WBT Oct 15 '17 at 4:07
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    People who can’t afford a few hundred dollars in an emergency are unlikely to spend a few tens of dollars just in case of an unlikely emergency. What is needed is a system where the government handles it, to avoid most of the money going on marketing and admin costs, and so that richer people pay more and poor people pay less. You could call it “tax”. – Mike Scott Oct 15 '17 at 7:02
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    You can insure almost anything, at a cost. I don't think it'd fly as a commercial product, though, for much the same reason that most Americans "can't afford" that unexpected expense. It's not that most couldn't, it's that they CHOOSE to live in such a manner that they can't afford surprise expenses, preferring to spend their money as soon as (or even before) they get it. So it seems unlikely that many would be interested in evacuation insurance. – jamesqf Oct 15 '17 at 18:05
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    @MikeScott why don't we just let the government handle everything? No need for individuals to have any responsibility at all!!!! – RonJohn Oct 16 '17 at 13:52
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I cannot find specific insurance that can be purchased individually to cover an evacuation, but there are provisions in some homeowner's and renter's policies that will cover evacuation-related expenses. Unfortunately, the policies are written vaguely with regards to what may or may not be covered. You should check with your current provider to see, before you need it, if you might be reimbursed.

Here's a news article from 2008 that talks about Hurricane Gustav and evacuees from Texas:

After filing a claim by telephone on Wednesday, the River Ridge resident went to an Allstate mobile catastrophe claims center in front of the Lowe's Home Improvement store on Veterans Memorial Boulevard. About 30 minutes later, he had a check in hand.

"They're very good about it, " said Chabborn, sitting on a plastic lawn chair in a parking lot camp of tents and an RV. "They just told me to keep receipts."

While many in the New Orleans area have waited in long lines for emergency food stamps to help repair their evacuation-busted budgets, others have discovered that their homeowners insurance will cover the cost of fleeing the storm.

Depending on the company, the coverage might be called loss of use, prohibited use, additional living expenses or civil authority coverage. It generally starts the day an evacuation was ordered and ends the day people are allowed to return home, for a maximum of two weeks.

But whether it applies to Gustav evacuees who returned home to little or no damage is a judgment call.

The article goes on to state that although policies state that reimbursements are only for when there is "damage in neighboring premises", the insurance company gets to decide how close a "neighboring premises" is.

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While I both agree and disagree with the comments, I think the issue with a product like this is much more practical than what's being discussed up there.

In order to insure an event the event must be defined. Life insurance, are you dead or not? Critical Illness insurance, did you receive a covered diagnosis? Etc.

To me the issue in my mind is how an evacuation event is defined. If I live in a city adjacent to a city where there was some terrorism event can I evacuate out of an abundance of caution? Is it only when a government entity declares a state of emergency? What does live near a wildfire mean? How near? Where is the edge of the fire? Underwriters of lump sum types of coverage typically have a very obvious line drawn, death, medical diagnosis, house burned down, etc. Even in the example of a warranty service, the item is either broken or it isn't. It's not 'some event' 'is happening', or 'happened recently', 'nearby'; it would be a real challenge to underwrite something that vague.

There's all kinds of insurance. I think it's silly to ignore a potential market for anything by citing some statistic of how people spend their money, a lot of the people who can't come up with $1 for an emergency are walking around with iPhones. I think the issue here is it would be very hard to underwrite and only useful to people in high risk areas.

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  • Simply being devil's advocate, but wouldn't the line be if an evacuation was ordered or in some way pushed by local governments? – BobbyScon Oct 16 '17 at 21:13
  • I mention that in the answer. Is it only when a government entity declares a state of emergency? – quid Oct 16 '17 at 21:14
  • State of emergency doesn't equal an evacuation order, though. I'd just think that in the case of "evacuation insurance", that's a pretty clear-cut line. Did you choose to optionally evacuate, or were you in a clearly defined zone that required evacuation? – BobbyScon Oct 16 '17 at 21:18
  • I agree, That would be one clear cut line. It doesn't align to any of the examples given in the question, which is why I my answer is about how vague definitions of peril don't work. – quid Oct 16 '17 at 21:25
  • Different insurers could define it slightly differently, and those small differences in fine print might mean differences in premiums, just like the diversity in the home warranty market and some other insurance products. The small print should give clarity to that insurer's definition, but the question is a bit fuzzier to cast a slightly wider net on what exists. – WBT Oct 18 '17 at 3:24

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