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When It Comes To Earthquake Insurance, Only About 10 Percent Of California Homes Are Covered

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

Items are scattered around a kitchen Saturday, July 6, 2019 following an earthquake in Ridgecrest, Calif. The Friday evening quake with a magnitude of about 7.1 jolted much of California.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

Glenn Pomeroy arrived in Ridgecrest less than 24 hours after the second of two major earthquakes rattled the town last week. The CEO of the California Earthquake Authority says 20 percent of homes in the town had earthquake insurance — a number that is not high, yet still twice the statewide average.

“Alarmingly, only about 10 percent of the homes in this state have earthquake insurance,” Pomeroy said.

The largest California earthquake in more than two decades has the state again grappling with the prospect of major damage from “The Big One” and how property owners might recover.

Pomeroy’s not-for-profit group sells a majority of the state's earthquake insurance and is one of the largest providers in the world. And while damage from last week's quakes was not catastrophic, he reminds that the next one could be significantly worse.

“If that Ridgecrest earthquake, that 7.1, would’ve been under the city of Los Angeles, or somewhere under the Bay or in San Diego or in another heavily populated area, we would be this morning looking at the loss of several thousands homes, billions of dollars in property damage, and California would have a severe crisis on its hands,” he said.

After the 1994 Northridge quake, insurance companies took big losses and many stopped offering quake coverage. Lawmakers responded by creating the CEA, which is not a state agency but is publicly managed, and that offers private insurance to both homeowners and renters.

“We will insure any home in California regardless of how close it sits to any fault line,” Pomeroy said, adding that customers must have homeowners insurance through a company that participates with the CEA.

Homeowners can buy insurance now and it will apply to any future earthquakes with no moratorium. The policies do exclude claims for damage from any shaking that is related to the same seismic event, such as the 7.1 quake near Ridgecrest, for the next 15 days. Participating insurers may have a different moratorium on coverage.

CEA offers a variety of private insurers with plans, including those that cover personal property and if you need to stay somewhere else while a home is fixed. It also offers insurance for renters.

You can try the insurance calculator at EarthquakeAuthority.com.

Nick Miller

Senior Editor, News & Features

Nick Miller is an award-winning editor with more than 15 years of newsroom experience. Previously he was editor-in-chief of the East Bay Express in Oakland, and worked as an editor for 12 years at the Sacramento News & Review.  Read Full Bio 

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