It’s Tsunami Preparedness Week, Now Go Sell a Policy

By | March 27, 2012

It’s Tsunami Preparedness Week, and that means states that border the Pacific Ocean may be hearing more buzz about the rare but deadly act of nature that poses catastrophic risks to coastal regions.

If you’re one of those scratching your head because you’ve never heard of Tsunami Preparedness Week, you’re not alone.

“Hardly anyone even knows about it,” said Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California.

It’s part of Moraga’s role as a communicator for IINC to raise the awareness of California consumers about dangers like earthquakes, fires, tsunamis and other natural disasters.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program, there were 264,475 flood policies in force in California as of Jan. 31. That represents a premium in excess of $208 million.

Given that California has 840 miles of coastline, it’s more than 3,000 miles when you figure in bays and inlets, Moraga thinks the number of policies in force should be much higher.

“The important thing is that there’s an opportunity,” Moraga said. “A lot of people still think that their standard homeowners’ policy includes coverage for flooding.”

There may be room to push flood policies in other coastal states too. According to NIFP, Washington has more than 46,000 policies in force, Oregon nearly 35,000, Hawaii more than 60,000 and Alaska has nearly 3,000.

Some $496.2 million in payments have been paid out in California for flood related damages since 1978. In Washington $238.6 million has been paid out over that time, in Oregon $85.4 million was paid, in Hawaii $81.5 million was paid and Alaska $2.6 million was paid.

California cities with high number of flood policies in force include: Los Angeles (7,953); Huntington Beach (7,444); Merced (4,404); Long Beach (4,042); Palo Alto (3,659); Garden Grove (2,724); Milpitas (2,038); and Newport Beach (1,596).

Tsunami Preparedness Week is part of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, formed in 1995 by Congress when it directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to form and lead a Federal/State working group.

Congress’ action was the result of the 1990 of the tsunami threat to Oregon, Washington, and northern California from a magnitude 9 earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone, as well as the April 1992 earthquake and tsunami on the Cascadia subduction zone in northern California, and the 1994 Hokkaido, Japan earthquake and tsunami, according to the program’s website.

“These events, together with the historic Alaska tsunamis of 1946 and 1964, brought to light the general lack of tsunami preparedness and hazard assessment for the U.S. west coast and the need for significant improvement in tsunami detection and forecasting,” a description of the program states.

NTHMP is a partnership between NOAA, United States Geological Survey, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Science Foundation, and U.S. Coastal governments.

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