The tragic tsunamis and Magnitude 8.9 earthquake that have struck Japan – the fifth largest quake in the world since 1900 – are a stark reminder that earthquakes can happen any time and it’s essential to prepare, according to the California Earthquake Authority. The CEA said it’s also important to remember not just to prepare for the quake, but to also prepare for what happens after the shocks.
“Preparing for earthquakes is critical, not just in California but in all the other seismic regions throughout the United States,” CEA CEO Glenn Pomeroy said. “The simple truth is that our country is not adequately prepared for the destruction – and financial devastation – from the “Big One” that strikes closer to home.”
California houses two-thirds of the nation’s earthquake risk,with most residents living within 30 miles of a major fault. But just 12 percent of homes with fire insurance also have earthquake coverage. “The devastating earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand – and now Japan – remind us that earthquakes will strike California. It’s true what experts say, that it is not a matter of ‘if,’ it is a matter of ‘when,'” Pomeroy said.
“The bottom line is that it’s very hard to imagine how a community would recover from a massive quake, when nearly all the damaged homes are completely uninsured for the loss,” Pomeroy added. “We must do more to prepare for the day when a massive earthquake will strike the U.S., whether in California or some other part of the country.”
Pomeroy sees Christchurch, New Zealand, as a community better prepared for the two big earthquakes that recently rocked that region. Almost everyone in that country has earthquake insurance on their home, he said. “Because of this, Christchurch will recover despite thousands of houses being destroyed in recent months.”
In California, a homeowners policy covers fire loss but doesn’t cover earthquake damage — a separate policy is required. Without earthquake insurance , a California homeowner is out of pocket the full cost of fixing their home. And they’ll continue making mortgage payments while also paying the cost of living and eating elsewhere while their home is repaired.
Earthquake insurance can ease that burden and give Californians the strength to rebuild, Pomeroy said. With nearly $10 billion in claim-paying power, the CEA could cover all of its claims if the earthquakes in San Francisco (1906), Loma Prieta (1989) and Northridge (1994) all occurred today. The CEA is not affected by the state budget, and the state can’t take CEA funds to shore up other deficits, he added.
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