Each day there are more than 100 earthquakes in the state of California. That’s at least 36,500 quakes over the course of a year. This past summer, the Truckee/Tahoe region experienced swarms of smaller-sized temblors, punctuated by the notable magnitude 6.0 quake on July 8 in Antelope Valley. It’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on, and it’s got some wondering if an earthquake insurance policy might be in order.
According to the California Earthquake Authority, of the 15,700 known faults in the state, more than 500 are active. Most Californians, the authority notes, live within 30 miles of an active fault. With a greater than 99% chance of one or more magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquakes striking the state, and 76% probability of one or more magnitude 7.0 shaking Northern California sometime in a 30-year period beginning in 2014, purchasing such a policy might not be the worst idea.
The CEA was created in 1996, in the wake of the Northridge earthquake, magnitude 6.7, which rocked California’s San Fernando Valley some 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. California law since the 1980s has mandated that companies selling homeowners policies also offer earthquake insurance. Following the Northridge quake, however, which resulted in an estimated $20 billion in residential damages, only half of which was covered by insurance, companies started to limit the number of policies sold. And much like today’s exodus of insurance companies dropping policies left and right due to wildfire risk, by January 1995, 93% of the California homeowners insurance market had either restricted or stopped writing homeowner policies altogether.
The CEA is a nonprofit, publicly managed but privately funded, and the entity holds two-thirds of the residential earthquake insurance policies sold in California. Insurance companies can choose to issue their own policies or to offer policies as participating members of the California Earthquake Authority. To date, the authority has partnered with 25 of the largest insurance companies to the point of becoming one of the largest providers of residential earthquake insurance in the world.
To determine your earthquake risk, and to find ways to reduce it, the CEA maintains three websites with useful information for homeowners: strengthenmyhouse.com offers guidance on strengthening older houses to make them less vulnerable to earthquake damage; earthquakebracebolt.com details grants and CEA funds to help Californians strengthen their homes; and earthquakeauthority.com, which provides information about residential earthquake insurance available for policyholders of CEA participating insurers and a premium calculator for CEA insurance policies. Website visitors will also find personal preparedness tips, CEA’s What’s Shaking? blog, information on structural risks to older homes, details about CEA research efforts, and other resources.
Policies from the CEA are available for homeowners, condominium unit owners, renters, and mobile home owners. The authority currently has more than $19 billion in claim-paying capacity, which would be enough to cover all claims if the 1906 San Francisco, 1989 Loma Prieta, or 1994 Northridge earthquakes reoccurred today. Find a policy through any of the California Earthquake Authority’s 25 participating member insurance companies or directly through the CEA online at earthquakeauthority.com.