Despite a history of large earthquakes (like Northridge, above), most Californians are unprepared for another natural disaster.
This article is sponsored by the California Earthquake Authority, a publicly managed, largely privately funded organization that provides catastrophic residential earthquake insurance and encourages Californians to reduce their risk of earthquake loss. Learn more about the CEA at Earthquakeauthority.com.
Californians live with the reality that a major earthquake could strike at any time. Yet, despite this looming threat, very few are prepared to deal with such an instantaneous, life-threatening disaster. In fact, just 12 percent of California's homeowners with fire insurance also have a separate earthquake insurance policy.
That's why this spring the California Earthquake Authority (or CEA) teamed up with the American Red Cross to create the Alliance to Promote Earthquake Preparedness, an initiative that helps Golden State residents plan for, survive and ultimately recover from the next damaging earthquake.
Both organizations bring a wealth of resources and experience to the table. With nearly $10 billion in claim-paying power and the service expertise of 17 participating insurance companies, the CEA could cover every claim if the 1906 San Francisco, 1989 Loma Prieta, and 1994 Northridge earthquakes struck simultaneously. The Red Cross is equally equipped for disaster response -- from supplying nearly half the nation's blood to spearheading the relief efforts in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, the international humanitarian organization's boots-on-the-ground approach has made them an invaluable organization for those in need.
So just how great a risk do earthquakes pose for the average Californian? Greater than you might think.
With 2,000 known faults crisscrossing the state, California suffers from 102 earthquakes a day. That accounts for two-thirds of the nation's earthquake risk. What's worse is that strong earthquakes -- defined as having a magnitude of 6 to 6.9 -- strike the state an average of once every two to three years.
Luckily, there are measures you can take to prepare for the next earthquake. Consider the following checklist:
Get a kit: Keep basic supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate.
Make a plan: Identify out-of-area emergency contacts. Decide where to reunite with loved ones after a disaster in case phone lines are down. Write your plan on an emergency contact card and store in your phone along with important numbers for emergency resources in your area.
Be informed: Discuss how to prepare and safely respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, work and play. Learn how notification systems in your area will work.
Secure your home’s structure and contents: Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation. Bolt and brace water heaters, gas appliances, bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs. Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sleep or sit. Brace overhead light fixtures. Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets – store heavy items closest to floor.
Practice how to drop, cover and hold on: During an earthquake, know how to drop to the ground, take cover under sturdy furniture, and hold on to that furniture until after the shaking stops.
Consider earthquake insurance: Most residential insurance policies do not cover earthquake damage -- a separate earthquake policy is required. Without earthquake insurance to help cover the costs of repairs and other expenses that come with catastrophic damage, you will pay out-of-pocket to fix your home, to replace your personal property, and to live and eat elsewhere.
Of course there is no full-proof way to prepare for an earthquake, but the above tips will keep you and loved ones as safe as possible in the case of an emergency.