This Thursday, October 21, is the date of the Great Shakeout, an annual event which raises awareness of the danger of earthquakes and coordinates safety drills and other best practices across the globe. We encourage everyone to consider participating in the Shakeout and take time to think about their preparedness for a major earthquake.
As someone who was raised and went to school in the San Francisco Bay Area, earthquake safety drills are drilled into my memory. I was an undergraduate at Berkeley when the Loma Prieta quake happened in 1989, and I can vividly recall the panic that ensued and the awful costs in lives, destruction, and lost property.
The US has not experienced such a hugely destructive quake since Northridge in 1994, but the Great Shakeout reminds us that we certainly will – the only question is when? The US Geological Service works to find answers to that question, and their guidance is grim. They suggest that in the next thirty years, Los Angeles has a 60% chance of experiencing a 6.7 magnitude quake (same as the ’94 Northridge quake); 46% chance of a magnitude 7.0 quake; and, 31% chance of a quake measuring 7.5. For comparison’s sake, the 1906 earthquake that, along with fire, destroyed much of San Francisco measured 7.7 on the Richter scale.
These are sobering numbers, and they’re not confined to California, either. Major fault systems in the Pacific Northwest and the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which covers seven states, are prone to major quakes. Some analysts suggest the upper end of the magnitude scale for the Northwest is 9.0; for New Madrid it’s 8.0. Events of that size would be among the ten largest quakes ever recorded in the US.
While we can’t stop earthquakes from happening, we can work to ensure they are less costly to American communities in both lives and lost property. That’s the mission of earthquake insurance market leaders like Palomar, and it’s the goal of the Great Shakeout. The Shakeout website is filled with important resources for communities, businesses, houses of worship and schools to improve our overall resilience to earthquake. Please browse their resources page: (https://www.shakeout.org/howtoparticipate/) and click on the interactive menu to see what activities are happening in each American state and many countries around the world. We encourage everyone to visit the site and review whether your home, business or other organization is prepared for a major seismic event. We know that training and preparation will save lives and reduce property damage.
As an insurer with deep expertise in earthquake, Palomar will continue to provide an ever-growing list of home and business owners with the support they need to rebuild after a damaging quake. While we work hard to communicate the value of earthquake insurance, our country is still dangerously under-insured. Even in California, perhaps the most famous seismic zone in the nation, only 13% of residents have any type of earthquake insurance. New Madrid fares a little better, with approximately 20% of residents covered.
Why does this matter? Uninsured losses from earthquake can devastate families, destroy businesses, weaken communities, and tax the ability of state and local governments to provide aid and services. While most think of under-insurance as a problem for a single homeowner, it really involves all of us. That’s why Palomar is passionate about earthquake insurance. We are invested in the success of American communities, and we will continue to play our part in building resiliency from coast to coast.