Small Oklahoma Quake Reinforces Need for Repsonse, Preparedness Training

November 22, 2011

A small earthquake was recorded in central Oklahoma on Nov. 21 — on a day that executives from the California Earthquake Authority met with officials from the Oklahoma Insurance Department to discuss earthquake response and statewide preparation for future seismic activity.

The meeting was arranged by Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak in the wake of a state-record 5.6-magnitude earthquake that shook central Oklahoma on Nov. 4, damaging hundreds of homes particularly in Lincoln County near the towns of Prague and Meeker.

The Nov. 21 magnitude 2.8 quake was recorded at 1:36 a.m. about two miles northeast of Luther — about 25 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“Oklahomans are accustomed to dealing with all sorts of catastrophes, from tornadoes and hailstorms to wildfires and blizzards, but earthquake response is new to us,” Doak said. “The California Earthquake Authority has 15 years of history in providing insurance to homeowners and educating the public about earthquake preparedness. As Oklahomans come to grips with the fact that damaging earthquakes are now a reality in our state, it’s wise to seek advice from experts in a state where earthquakes are more common. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel.”

Four officials from the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) were in Oklahoma for the meetings, while four others joined via conference call for a morning discussion with Oklahoma Insurance Department personnel. The West Coast contingent was led by California Earthquake Authority CEO Glenn Pomeroy. Pomeroy previously served as insurance commissioner of North Dakota.

The CEA is a privately funded nonprofit insurance company, launched in the wake of the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake — a $15 billion disaster that saw insurers pay out more in claims from a few seconds of shaking than they had collected in premiums over the previous 50 years.

Its first involvement in Oklahoma’s earthquake response came just a few days after the damaging event. OID personnel contacted the CEA, which sent a journalistic team to interview Oklahoma quake victims and shoot video at their damaged homes, to document the catastrophe and illustrate future earthquake awareness efforts in Oklahoma. Pomeroy accompanied that team.

The CEA also has funded research that produced a technical manual, “General Guidelines for the Assessment and Repair of Earthquake Damage in Residential Wood Structures.”

In terms of earthquake preparedness, the CEA has found that consumers need to be told not only what they should do to prepare for earthquakes — whether that be purchasing insurance, mitigating risk by securing their property or developing family survival kits and emergency plans — they also need to be told why each of those actions is vital.

Source: Oklahoma Insurance Department, Associated Press

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