Hurricane Harvey Acts as a Wake-Up Call for California Homeowners

21 Sep
California homeowners and earthquake insurance

According to data from the California Earthquake Authority, a mere 1 in 10 California homeowners have earthquake insurance.

According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, footage of the damage done by Hurricane Harvey should act as a wake-up call for South California. Harvey is an excellent example of the type of extensive damage and life changing impact that a major weather or earthquake event can have on community. “Both natural disasters (hurricanes and earthquakes) fundamentally alter daily life for months or years,” said the newspaper article.

What Could Happen?

When the “Big One” arrives, it will most likely be an earthquake that has a magnitude of 8.0 or higher which is much bigger than the 1994 Northridge earthquake that topped out at 6.7. The Northridge earthquake killed at least 60 people and injured over 9,000.

While damage estimates vary for the Northridge earthquake, the Insurance Information Institute (III) puts it at $20 billion in property damage. Total economic damage has been estimated to run up to $50 billion. In today’s dollars, if the Northridge earthquake happened again the cost could easily run between $95 billion and $155 billion according to a quake symposium presented in 2014.

As a comparison, the damage done by Harvey has been estimated at $190 billion. Massive flooding has pushed up the damage cost dramatically.

According to the L.A. Times story, a study done by the state and federal government found that even a 7.8 quake would be “so powerful that it causes widespread damage and consequently affects lives and livelihoods of all Southern Californians.”

Experts predict that the “Big One” could impact up to 23 million people, kill thousands and injure up to 50,000. Over 1 million people could be displaced from their home. A major quake on the San Andreas Fault could damage virtually every city in Southern California as well as threaten the water supply.

The water supply for the entire Los Angeles area relies on a series of aqueducts that cross over the San Andreas Fault, a major earthquake would damage or destroy those aqueducts leaving Southern California without a reliable water supply for the foreseeable future.

Water could be a huge problem as there is a good chance fires would break out everywhere, leaving firefighters hard pressed to both navigate damaged or destroyed roads on top of dealing with a lack of reliable water.

Californians Not Insured

According to data from the California Earthquake Authority, which is the largest provider of residential earthquake insurance in California, a mere 1 in 10 California homeowners have earthquake insurance. As a comparison, only 2 in 10 homeowners affected by Hurricane Harvey had flood insurance according to the Consumer Federation of America.

All of this means that California residents may find themselves ill prepared when the next big earthquake hits. While it is easy to ignore the risk, not being properly insured can result in a financial catastrophe, the loss of your home, possessions and savings.

Earthquake insurance may seem pricey but the average in California is about $1.75 per $1,000 of coverage, which works out to $525 a year for $300,000 in coverage. This will be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of rebuilding your home and replacing your possessions if your home is destroyed.

We recommend that all homeowners in an earthquake prone area carry a earthquake rider or separate earthquake policy. Get an enhanced California homeowners insurance policy today!

Here are a few tips regarding earthquake insurance:

What it covers: Earthquake insurance covers repairs to your home and any attached structures such as your garage. It also covers the cost to replace your personal belongings. Additional living expenses may also be covered but it varies by policy. This would cover the cost of hotel and restaurant bills if you are unable to live in your home.

Deductible: Earthquake insurance comes with a percentage deductible, which is different than most homeowners insurance. While the percentage varies, expect between a 10 and 20 percent deductible. This means that if you are carrying a $200,000 policy and have a 10 percent deductible, $20,000 will be deducted from the insurance check.

Keep an Up to Date Inventory: Maintain an up to date home inventory so you are fairly and quickly reimbursed if the worst happens. There are a number of apps available that make the process easier. Be sure to store you inventory in the cloud or offsite so it is not destroyed in an earthquake.

Upgrade Your Home: It is possible to lower your earthquake insurance costs and help your home withstand a quake by doing some upgrades. Bolting your home to its foundation, bracing cripple walls and strapping water heaters to the structure of your home can all help.

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