Californians’ Biggest Disaster Fear: Earthquakes

By | June 24, 2011

Of the many possible disasters that could befall Californians, Golden State residents fear earthquakes the most, according to a recent poll. Statewide, 57 percent of voters cite earthquakes as their greatest threat from nature, more than twice the proportion saying wildfires (23 percent), which is mentioned next most often.

Those fears were followed by tsunami or tidal waves (9 percent), and floods and mudslides (5 percent), the field poll indicated. Of course, fears were influenced by where a voter lived. Earthquake fears were greater in the San Francisco Bay Area (76 percent) and Los Angeles County (66 percent). In other parts of California, earthquakes were mentioned, but fears of wildfire ranked a close second, according to the poll.

The poll, conducted by Field Research Corp. of San Francisco, indicated that Californians believe a major earthquake is more likely to occur in the coming decade than they’ve felt this way in the past. Fifty-six percent of voters now expect an earthquake causing major damage to occur in their area in the next 10 years. Five years ago, only 40 percent of California voters felt that way, the poll indicated.

“Californians are right to worry about the next ‘big one,'” said Glenn Pomeroy, CEO of the California Earthquake Authority. He noted that the U.S. Geological Survey predicts a 99.7 percent chance that a magnitude 6.7 earthquake will strike in California in the next 30 years. Additionally, a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics report indicated a major Southern California earthquake would create huge business interruption and employee displacement. “Unfortunately, despite the fact that 57 percent of voters fear an impending earthquake, only about 10 percent of Californians currently have earthquake insurance,” Pomeroy added.

Affordability is one of the primary reasons Californians do not purchase earthquake insurance, the CEA believes. That is why the Authority is working with Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to pass the Earthquake Insurance Affordability Act, which it said will allow the CEA to offer significantly reduced insurance rates. The Authority also is offering insurance agent incentives to sell more earthquake insurance policies, and has accompanied that with a marketing value program.

“As Californians, we live with the knowledge that earthquakes are as inevitable as they are unpredictable. … This new data shows the absolute need for this legislation, and we look forward to working with legislators from across California on the passage of this important bill,” Pomeroy said.

The Field Poll was based on a random sample of 950 registered voters in California, with questions asked in both Spanish and English. Download the Field Poll results, at http://www.field.com/fieldpollonline/subscribers/Rls2381.pdf.

The CEA is a publicly managed, largely privately funded organization that provides residential earthquake catastrophe insurance and encourages Californians to reduce their risk of earthquake loss. By law, the CEA’s rates must allow it to remain financially sound and cover claims. It currently has more than 800,000 policyholders, representing about 70 percent of the California earthquake insurance market.

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