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Last year, the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), the country’s leading provider of residential earthquake insurance, saw a record number of Californians purchasing earthquake insurance.
In 2016, after rolling out many new policy choices and deductible options and offering greater premium discounts for older houses that have been seismically retrofitted, CEA gained more than 52,000 policies in force—a significant increase when compared with CEA’s average annual growth rate in the previous decade of around 7,200 policies a year. The CEA currently has more than 940,000 policyholders.
Perhaps Californians are considering what scientists have been saying about earthquake risks in California. They now say there is a greater-than-99-percent chance of a magnitude-6.7 or larger earthquake—and a 93-percent chance of a magnitude-7.0 or larger quake—occurring somewhere in California in the next 30 years. A magnitude-7.0 quake would be nearly three times stronger than the 1994 Northridge earthquake that caused widespread damage.
To protect themselves financially from costly earthquake damage, more Californians are taking advantage of the flexible earthquake insurance policies offered by CEA.
Sold by 24 participating insurance companies, CEA policies are now available with a wider variety of deductible choices and other options so that Californians are in the driver’s seat to choose the policy that best meets their needs and budget. In addition, over the past 20 years, as inflation has gone up 51 percent and housing reconstruction costs have increased by 168 percent, CEA has lowered its rates by a combined 55 percent, keeping earthquake insurance premium costs more affordable. CEA’s premium calculator makes it easy for users to see the available policy options and choose the coverage that works best for them.
Still, not enough Californians have taken steps to protect their greatest assets from earthquake damage. Like most of California, San Diego is earthquake country—most people who live in San Diego County live less than 15 miles from a fault that can have a damaging earthquake—yet, only about 20 percent of San Diegans with a residential insurance policy, like homeowners or renters insurance, have also purchased earthquake insurance.
Many people have misconceptions that keep them from buying earthquake insurance. Some people believe their house is covered for earthquake damage through their homeowners insurance. However, this is not true. A separate earthquake policy is required. And some may think earthquake insurance is too expensive, or that it provides too little coverage, or that the deductible is too high. But they are likely unaware that CEA recently lowered its rates and expanded the coverage choices available.
They may also believe an insurance policy wouldn’t be there for them when the big one happens. But CEA has excellent financial strength, and with a claim-paying capacity of $14.1 billion, CEA could cover all its claims if the 1906 San Francisco, 1989 Loma Prieta or 1994 Northridge earthquake were to reoccur today. CEA encourages Californians to take steps to reduce their risk of earthquake loss before the next damaging earthquake strikes. For information on earthquake insurance and how to strengthen your home with seismic retrofitting, visit EarthquakeAuthority.com.
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