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CA Department of Insurance

Californians still not prepared for a major earthquake 22 years later

News: 2016 Press Release

For Release: January 16, 2016
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
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Californians still not prepared for a major earthquake 22 years later

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Twenty-two years ago the Northridge earthquake killed 57 people, destroyed 82,000 residential and commercial units, made more than 125,000 people at least temporarily homeless and caused an estimated $20 billion in damages. The 6.7 temblor shook California's economy resulting in $49 billion in economic loss and yet, very few homeowners have taken the proper steps to mitigate their risk.

"The reality is that every day we run the risk of a major quake striking California and leaving devastation in its wake," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "The Northridge earthquake, the costliest in U.S. history, is just one example. When a large quake hits, as USGS scientists predict, earthquake insurance or a braced and bolted foundation may be all that stands between you and financial ruin."

California homeowners must consider the financial risk earthquakes pose and be prepared. Residential insurance policies typically do not cover earthquake damage. A separate earthquake policy is required and currently, very few homeowners statewide are covered by earthquake insurance. Without earthquake coverage, you are choosing to be self-insured, which means you are responsible for all costs to repair or rebuild your home, to replace your personal property and recover financially.

Many people mistakenly think FEMA or other government agency will rebuild their home if it is damaged or destroyed in an earthquake. If a federal emergency is declared after a major earthquake, assistance is only intended to get people back into their homes, not to rebuild them. Moreover, aid from FEMA comes in the form of capped grants or low interest loans that the homeowner is responsible for paying back.

It's important that homeowners and renters understand their risk and learn about the resources available to help prepare for a major quake. This year, the Earthquake Brace + Bolt program will provide funding to seismically retrofit 1,600 homes in more than 100 ZIP codes in vulnerable areas in Northern and Southern California.

If an unsecured house is damaged during an earthquake, homeowners can face hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair costs, while the cost of bracing and bolting a home averages between $3,000 and $5,000. 

Beginning January 20, California homeowners will be able to apply for up to $3,000 to protect their homes from earthquake damage by visiting

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Media Notes:

Additional tips for homeowners and renters:

  • Review your insurance policies at least once each year with your agent or broker to ensure you have adequate coverage;
  • Brace your water heater to minimize the risks of fire and water damage caused by water heaters that topple during earthquakes;
  • Fasten cupboard doors with child-proof latches to prevent them from opening and spilling their contents;
  • Secure 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. 

The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $310 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.4357. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

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