California insurance commissioner urges earthquake preparedness

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones this week urged Californians to update their earthquake preparedness plans and evaluate the need for earthquake insurance.

“On this 17th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake, let us be reminded that we live in a region of the country that is constantly in flux,” said Commissioner Dave Jones. “While it was certainly a tragic event that impacted many Californians, we must be even more prepared for the next big earthquake that scientists say may come at any time.”

Earthquake preparedness includes the following:
• Review your insurance policies at least once each year with your agent or broker to ensure that they provide adequate coverage.
• Consider purchasing an earthquake policy if your home is in an earthquake-prone area, doesn’t meet current building standards, or is built upon unstable ground.
• Take measures to retrofit your home to increase your safety during an earthquake.
• Brace your water heater to minimize the risks of fire and water damage caused by water heaters that topple during earthquakes.
• Bolt your home’s wood frame to its foundation to prevent damage resulting from the structure sliding off its foundation. And for houses on raised foundations, brace of “cripple walls” to reduce damage from earthquakes.
• Mobile home owners should use earthquake-bracing systems to reduce the chance of damage from homes slipping off support jacks.
• Fasten cupboard doors with child-proof latches to prevent them from opening and spilling their contents. • Fasten bookcases, mirrors, televisions, and other tall or heavy objects to wall studs.
• Gas appliances should have flexible attachments, and family members should be familiar with gas shut-off techniques.

Most homeowners’ and renters’ policies do not cover damage from earthquakes. The California Earthquake Authority was formed to provide earthquake insurance to residential property owners including homeowners, individual condominium unit owners, mobile homeowners, and renters. Under the CEA plan, the CEA member insurance company is required to offer earthquake coverage subject to the minimum dwelling and personal property. Dwellings must be covered according to CEA policy guidelines; however, other structures such as outbuildings, swimming pools, and masonry fences are specifically excluded, as is the case with the majority of earthquake policies. CEA has more recently offered broader coverage in response to growing claim reserves and positive reports of plan solvency.

Earthquake coverage can not be purchased directly from CEA. CEA does not offer stand-alone earthquake policies. Only licensed California insurers who are CEA-member companies can sell CEA policies.  A residential property policy must be in force or homeowners must purchase a new residential property policy from a CEA member insurer in order to be offered a CEA policy. The residential insurance companies participating in CEA currently underwrite more than 70 percent of the residential property insurance sold in California. A participating CEA company can only offer CEA policies.

Get important information about preparing for a disaster from the California Department of Insurance website at www.insurance.ca.gov. Or, call its consumer hotline at (800) 927-HELP.

Kit2I am preparing a very nice Earthquake Preparedness Kit for the next 4 buyers who select me as their REALTOR and email me a letter of recommendation with their family or pet photo upon closing escrow!  ….and yes, I make it myself. 🙂

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