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California earthquake insurance
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California has more damage-causing earthquakes than any other state. However, standard homeowners and renters insurance policies don’t typically cover earthquake damage. To financially protect your home from earthquakes, you may need to buy an endorsement or standalone policy for earthquake coverage. Given how earthquakes can strike without warning, many homeowners throughout the Golden State may want to weigh the pros and cons of earthquake insurance.
Do I need earthquake insurance in California?
California residents are often told to prepare for “the big one.” There is currently over a 99 percent chance that an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or higher will strike California. When it comes to earthquakes, being prepared may make a big difference in terms of your family’s safety and financial protection.
One proactive method for financial protection could be to obtain an earthquake insurance policy. While earthquake insurance is not mandatory in California, damage from earthquakes is excluded from standard home insurance policies. For this reason, if your home or personal belongings were damaged by an earthquake, and you didn’t have designated earthquake insurance, you’d be responsible for the cost of repairing your home or replacing damaged belongings out of pocket.
Some earthquake insurance policies extend coverage to other structures, like a pool, shed or fence. Earthquake insurance may also cover the cost of temporary living arrangements after a covered quake through loss of use coverage or additional living expenses.
How to purchase earthquake insurance in California
When it comes to obtaining California earthquake insurance, there may be a few different methods available. Here are two of the most common ways California residents typically obtain earthquake insurance:
The California Earthquake Authority
The California Earthquake Authority (CEA) is one of the biggest residential earthquake coverage providers. It is a not-for-profit organization, and its premiums reflect the latest science around earthquake risk in California. A CEA insurance policy offers the following coverage options:
- Personal property
- Loss of use
- Building code upgrades
- Emergency repairs
- Exterior masonry veneer protection
CEA earthquake insurance is available through many home insurance providers. There are currently 24 property insurance companies that sell CEA coverage. Keep in mind that CEA does not sell standalone policies. In order to qualify for CEA insurance, you must have a homeowners insurance policy with one of the participating insurance companies.
A perk of CEA insurance is that homeowners have flexibility in what coverage options and deductibles they want to choose. For instance, breakables and exterior masonry veneer are optional coverage types. Dwelling coverage is available with a deductible of 5 percent to 25 percent.
If you own an older home retrofitted to withstand earthquake damage, you could qualify for a discount on your CEA insurance. California homeowners may be eligible for a lower premium if their home meets the following criteria:
- Was built before 1980
- Is constructed with wood frames
- Is built on a raised foundation or other non-slab foundation
- Is seismically retrofitted based on California standards
Earthquake coverage through private insurers
The other option for buying earthquake insurance in California is to purchase a standalone policy through a private insurance company. A few private California earthquake insurers include GeoVera, Arrowhead and Jumpstart. When shopping for earthquake insurance policies, be sure to read through each company’s policy coverage and limitations carefully to ensure you know how you’ll be covered and what your deductibles are in the event of an earthquake.
How much does earthquake insurance cost?
The price of earthquake insurance may be different for every homeowner. When calculating earthquake insurance costs, there are a few factors you might want to consider. Your earthquake insurance premium may be dependent on the following factors:
- The age of your home
- The materials your home is built with
- The type of foundation
- The home’s proximity to a fault line
- Reconstruction costs
- Coverage types
- Deductible amount
To get a sense of what you will pay for coverage, you can use the CEA’s earthquake insurance premium calculator. Unlike traditional home insurance, earthquake insurance rates are generally based on the home itself, rather than the homeowner. Generally speaking, the more risk your home faces, the higher your premium may be.
How to prepare your home for an earthquake
Preparing your home for an earthquake may reduce the chances of damage to your home and belongings as well as better protect the safety of you and your family. Some steps you may want to take to prepare for a potential earthquake include:
- Secure heavy items: This includes furniture, appliances, electronics, hanging objects and even ceiling fans. Keep tall and heavy objects away from areas where you normally spend time, like your living room couch or dining room table.
- Store breakable objects low: If you have breakable objects, like glassware, consider storing them in low or closed cabinets with latches. Also, keep heavy objects low to reduce the risk of injury from falling objects.
- Identify safe spaces and make a plan for shelter: Identify spaces where you and your family could take cover during an earthquake. The spaces should be away from windows, mirrors or other heavy objects that could break or fall. If possible, seek shelter under sturdy furniture, like a table or desk. Practicing at-home earthquake drills with your family may help you stay calm during a real quake.
- Inspect your home: You might consider having your home inspected by a professional to assess its earthquake readiness. They might suggest improvements like reinforcing chimneys, retrofitting the foundation or adding seismic safety measures to an older house.
- Make a plan: Most experts recommend making a plan with your family in case of an earthquake. Designate a meeting spot and keep a handy disaster kit handy. The kit should include a radio or other device to receive updates. It should also include non-perishable food and water, necessary medications, a flashlight, extra batteries and a first aid kit.
The steps mentioned here are only basic, general recommendations. The steps necessary for you may vary based on your location, home type and family needs. Local emergency management organizations or national organizations like the American Red Cross or FEMA can provide additional guidance on how to best prepare for a potential disaster.