People living in seismically active areas should remember that standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover most earthquake damage.
And no one in the Golden State is immune to earthquake risk.
Recently, scientists in California discovered that the Palos Verdes fault zone, which stretches from Santa Monica Bay to Dana Point, can produce an earthquake 45 times stronger than the destructive 1994 Northridge quake. A temblor from that fault could reach a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter Scale.
As wildfire resilience takes center stage, Californians shouldn’t forget about temblors and reduce risk through education, mitigation, and insurance.
What can you do to prepare?
One easy step, make sure you have a go-bag for everyone in your household. Gather essential items in an easy-to-carry bag, including extra clothes, water bottles, flashlights, phone chargers, a first-aid kit, and more. You probably have many of these items sitting around already.
Download an earthquake alert app on your smartphone. The MyShake app from the UC Berkeley Seismology Lab and the ShakeAlert app are tools that can provide valuable seconds of early warning.
These alert apps can’t predict when or where an earthquake will strike; however, the warning should give you enough time to drop, cover, and hold on somewhere safe.
Earthquake retrofitting, especially for houses built before 1980, makes homes safer and less likely to suffer damage during an earthquake.
Retrofitting single-family homes is considered one of the cheapest seismic improvements. For example, a foundation bolting process usually costs between $3,000 to $7,000. Work can be done within several days without the residents moving out.
You need to have your earthquake insurance in place before the next big temblor because insurance companies typically suspend policy sales following a severe quake. Insurers will only offer coverage again once they feel certain aftershocks have subsided.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, a few questions to ask to determine whether you need earthquake insurance include:
- Can you afford the cost of rebuilding or repairing your home if damaged?
- Can you replace your personal belongings if they are damaged or destroyed?
- Can you afford to pay for temporary housing and other expenses if structural damage makes your home uninhabitable?
Rates for earthquake insurance vary significantly, while deductibles for coverage are usually more than traditional homeowners policies, ranging from 5 to 15 percent of the policy limit.
In California, the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) offers earthquake coverage with various options, including the house’s structure, personal property, building code upgrades, and emergency repairs. However, you cannot buy earthquake insurance directly from CEA; you buy from insurance companies that are members of CEA.
Contact a trusted insurance advisor who provides expert guidance, like Premier Private Client, to gain more insights and determine whether earthquake insurance is available and right for you.