Homeowners will be able to check a new Web site to see clearly whether their houses are situated above or near an abandoned mine, giving them immediate access to the information they need to obtain mine subsidence insurance to protect their assets, according to Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty. The enhanced Web site was launched on Monday.

"Each year, we see homes crack, tilt or collapse as old mine workings give way," McGinty said. "Most homeowners' insurance policies do not cover damage caused by subsidence or the flooding that occurs after underground mine pools burst through the surface. Mine subsidence insurance is an inexpensive way to guard your lifetime investment."

Coal has been mined underground in Pennsylvania for more than 200 years and the workings extend throughout 43 of the state's 67 counties. More than 1 million homes in Pennsylvania sit atop abandoned mines.

The enhanced Web site, located at www.paMSI.org, enables residents to view maps of municipalities in Allegheny, Butler, Blair, Cambria, Clarion, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Washington and Westmoreland counties, where mine subsidence problems are acute. Residents in those counties can identify their neighborhood to determine if mining took place there and decide whether insurance is needed.

Residents in unlisted municipalities or other counties can complete an online, site-specific request form for the same information, or they can call the help desk at 1-800-922-1678 to find out if their property is at risk. Those without Internet service also may call the help desk, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Mine Subsidence Insurance (MSI) is a nonprofit fund administered by DEP that helps to protect a homeowner's investment. MSI covers damages to insured homes occurring during the life of a policy. Covered damages include ground movements caused by mine subsidence or a sudden and unexpected breakout of mine water.

The new MSI Web site helps residents find the nearest agent who is registered with DEP to sell MSI simply by typing a zip code into the "Find an Agent" search engine. Residents then can contact the agent and ask to have mine locations relative to their home address checked. The agent will submit an application to the MSI office on the resident's behalf.

The insurance premium is about $1 for every $1,000 of coverage up to $250,000. Coverage is available to both residential and commercial buildings and there is a senior citizen discount for those older than 65.

Since the mine subsidence insurance program was created in 1961, it has paid more than $20 million in claim repairs.

Mine subsidence insurance also is available through some homeowners' insurance agents.

In addition to MSI information, the Web site contains a graphic illustration of how mine subsidence occurs and a gallery of photographs of homes damaged by mine subsidence, detailing the kind of destruction that can occur in a subsidence event. The site also highlights recent mine subsidence cases that were mentioned in news accounts.