Category Archives: Earthquakes

As Nat Cat Losses Mount,
A Resilience Mindset Matters More Than Ever

Insurance is essential for individuals, businesses, and communities to recover quickly from natural  catastrophes – but perils have evolved to a point at which risk transfer, though necessary, isn’t enough to ensure resilience.

Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan said during a that better insured communities recover more quickly but “the long-term resilience of both the communities impacted by natural catastrophes and of the industry itself depend on preparedness and improved risk mitigation.”  He was one of three panelists participating in the webinar.

“Something’s Got to Give”

Insured U.S. natural catastrophe losses totaled $67 billion in 2020 after an Atlantic hurricane season which included 30 named storms, record-setting wildfires in California, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, and a severe derecho in Iowa. This year’s hurricane season looks to be more severe; the Bootleg wildfire in Oregon – so large and intense it has begun to create its own weather and is affecting air quality as far east as New York City – isn’t  expected to be fully contained until late November; and these disasters are taking place on the heels of devastating winter storms in the first quarter.

As Kevelighan put it in his panel remarks, pointing to a 700 percent increase in insurer loss costs since the 1980s, “Something’s got to give.”

“As the country’s financial first responders,” he said, “insurers are not just responsible for providing relief to the communities affected by natural disasters, but also planning for potential catastrophes to come.”  

One of the ways insurers do this, he said, is by building the industry’s cumulative policyholders’ surplus—the amount of money remaining after insurers’ collective liabilities are subtracted from their assets. At year-end 2020, the U.S. policyholders’ surplus stood at a record-high $914.3 billion.

Mitigate and educate

The role of the insurance industry has grown beyond merely taking on risks to educating the public, regulators, and corporate decision makers on the changing nature of risk and driving a resilience mindset characterized by a focus on pre-emptive mitigation and rapid recovery. Triple-I and a host of other insurance industry organizations have played a key role in promoting public-private partnerships and using advanced data and analytics to understand and address hazards in advance.

For example, Triple-I’s online Resilience Accelerator provides access to data and risk maps that empowers the public to assess and prepare for risks specific to their own communities.

This webinar, co-presented by The Institutes’ Griffith Foundation and the Insurance Regulator Education Foundation, included panelists Hanna Grant, Head of the Secretariat, Access to Insurance Initiative; and Dr. Abhishek Varma, Associate Professor, Finance, Insurance and Law, Illinois State University. It was moderated by James Jones, Executive Director, Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services, Illinois State University.

Webinar highlights:

Unethical Contractors Emerge After Disasters; Know How to Avoid Them

Natural disasters create opportunities for unethical contractors, and consumers need to be on the alert.

Post-disaster repair scams typically start when a contractor makes an unsolicited visit to a homeowner and pressures the homeowner to pay the contractor their insurance claim money – then disappear without doing the work.

Triple-I is teaming up with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) during the NICB’s Contractor Fraud Awareness Week (July 12-16) to educate the public about such frauds and how to avoid them.

Before hiring any contractor, consumers affected by a natural disaster should call their insurer. There’s no need to rush into an agreement. Homeowners should inspect all work and make sure they are satisfied before paying. Most contractors will require a reasonable down payment, but no payments should be made until a written contract is in place.

The NICB offers these tips to homeowners before hiring a contractor:

  • Be wary of anyone knocking on your door offering unsolicited repairs to your home. 
  • Be suspicious of any contractor who rushes you or says the government endorses them.
  • Shop around for a contractor by getting recommendations from people you trust.
  • Get three written estimates for the work and compare bids.
  • Check a contractor’s credentials with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Always ask for a written contract that clearly states everything the contractor will do.
  • Never sign a contract with blank spaces because it could be altered afterward.
  • Never pay for work up front and avoid paying with cash; use either a check or credit card.

The NICB Post-Disaster Contractor Search Checklist explains the contractor hiring process step by step.  Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422) or submitting a form to the NICB.

“Acting as communities’ financial first responders, insurers rebuild damaged homes, cars, and lives after a natural disaster,” said Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan.  “The Insurance Information Institute is proud to join forces with the NICB to educate consumers and communities about how to best prepare and recover economically.”

“Victims of disasters are under tremendous stress as they are often pulled from their homes, fight heavy traffic attempting to get to safety, all while leaving their home and belongings behind,” said NICB President and CEO David Glawe. “When they go home, they are exhausted and strained, a time when they are most susceptible to these fraudulent schemes.”

RELATED LINKS:

Article: Insurance Fraud

Facts & Statistics: Insurance Fraud

Dear California:
As You Prep for Wildfire, Don’t Neglect Quake Risk

It’s important for people living in earthquake-prone areas to remember that standard homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover most earthquake damage.

For this reason, Janet Ruiz, Triple-I’s California-based director of strategic communication, advises people in the state to consider buying a policy that, at a minimum, covers the structure, building code upgrades, and emergency repairs.

“You can also get coverage for additional living expenses and personal property, and some companies even cover damaged swimming pools or masonry veneer,” Ruiz writes in a recent Op-Ed in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

As the South Napa and Ridgecrest earthquakes – in 2014 and 2019, respectively – recede from memory and wildfire readiness and resilience seem the more immediate need, Ruiz reminds Californians that even relatively mild tremors can inflict costly damage. She therefore encourages residents to reduce their risk through education, mitigation, and insurance.

There are a number of earthquake insurance providers in California. Many participate in the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), but some non-CEA insurers also provide options to help protect Californians from financial loss.

“CEA offers premium discounts to policyholders who have retrofitted, or strengthened, their older homes to help them better withstand shaking,” Ruiz writes.

In a separate Op-Ed, CEA CEO Glenn Pomeroy advises on retro-fitting older homes to be more quake resistant and resilient. Older homes – especially those built before 1980 – are more susceptible to earthquake damage because they predate modern seismic building codes. According to U.S. Census data, more than 53 percent of the housing units in San Diego County fall into that category of being built before 1980 and could be in need of retrofitting.

Seismic retrofitting can be straightforward and often not as expensive as homeowners might think. Depending on the type of retrofit needed, the work can usually be done in a couple of days, with costs ranging from $3,000 to $7,000.

“Compared to the potential cost of repairing an earthquake-damaged home,” Pomeroy writes, “spending a smaller amount of money to help prevent damage can help avoid a much bigger repair bill after an earthquake. Whatever the cost, it is a relatively small price to pay to protect the value of your home and, more importantly, make it safer for your family.”

Particularly important as the need for pandemic social distancing continues, Pomeroy points out, “Homeowners can remain inside their dwelling as workers do the job without entering the residence.”

Drop, Cover, and Hold On – Great Shakeout Earthquake Drills Take Place on October 15

About half of all Americans are at risk of ground shaking from earthquakes. That’s why practicing what to do in the event of a quake is so important and why over 11 million people worldwide (and counting) are participating in this year’s Great ShakeOut earthquake safety drill on October 15.

The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills is a worldwide earthquake safety movement. Most participate by registering to practice “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”

ShakeOut organizers recommend people follow the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety, which starts with Step 1: Secure Your Space. Most earthquake injuries are entirely preventable and are caused by furniture and other objects that move or break when shaking occurs, resulting in trips, bruises, cuts, and more. You can secure your space by moving heavy objects down to lower shelves, relocate tall furniture away from entrances and exits, and secure cabinets with latches.

In California, a state where earthquakes are frequent, Earthquake Warning California is coordinating a statewide drill to coincide with ShakeOut. People who have downloaded the MyShake app to their phone will receive a TEST warning at 10:15am with guidance to Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some participants are adapting their ShakeOut activities through video-conferencing, choosing staggered or alternative dates, and following local health and safety guidelines.

To register for ShakeOut click here.

Additional Resources:

The Earthquake Country Alliance’s Safer At Home Webinar Series offer many safety tips and advice on how to minimize financial hardship.

Triple-I’s Facts & Statistics: Earthquake Insurance

Video: What’s covered by earthquake insurance

Earthquake Country Alliance’s Minimize Financial Hardship Webinar

The Earthquake Country Alliance will host a webinar on how to be financially prepared for an earthquake as part of its Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety series.

The webinar will focus on Step 4 – Minimize Financial Hardship. It will include tips on organizing important documents, strengthening your property and insurance. Experts listed below will discuss each of these elements, along with “live” demonstrations.

Date:   Wednesday, September 23, 2020 Time: 11am – 12pm PDT 

Presenters:

  • Janet Ruiz (Director – Strategic Communications, Insurance Information Institute)
  • Dante Randazzo (Federal Preparedness Coordinator, FEMA Region 9)
  • Janiele Maffei (Chief Mitigation Officer, California Earthquake Authority)
  • Glenn Pomeroy (Chief Executive Officer, California Earthquake Authority)
  • Randy Braverman (Project Manager Earthquake Brace + Bolt Program, Safe-T-Proof)
  • Tim Kaucher (Engineering Manager Southwestern U.S., Simpson Strong-Tie)

Register to attend

You can view recordings, presentations, and other resources for previous webinars:

Step 1 – Secure Your Space

Step 2 – Plan to Be Safe

Step 3 – Organize Disaster Supplies

Earthquake Shakes San Diego Day After National Earthquake Conference

Last week (March 4-6) the National Earthquake Conference —  attended by hundreds of  experts, including academics, engineers, government leaders, insurance professionals, and scientists – took place in San Diego.

The day after the conference, as if to make a point, a 5.5. magnitude earthquake that struck Baja California, Mexico, shook San Diego.

While no damage was reported, a study released at the conference by the San Diego chapter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute showed that a magnitude 6.9 earthquake on San Diego’s Rose Canyon Fault could damage 100,000 residences, cause widespread road and bridge failures, and make parts of Mission Bay sink about a foot. Such a quake would inflict an estimated $38 billion in building and infrastructure damage, displacing 36,000 households and wreaking havoc on San Diego’s $245 billion economy.

Don’t be scared, be prepared

Conference goals were to improve life safety when earthquakes occur, to help communities learn how to recover faster, and to help prevent or minimize physical earthquake damage through stronger building practices, including research-informed, model building codes and standards.

Janet Ruiz, Triple-I’s Director of Strategic Communications, who was one of the attendees, said one of the great points of the conference was: “Don’t be scared, be prepared.”

Earthquake risk is insurable

One of the ways to be prepared for any disaster is to make sure you have adequate insurance. But as few as 13 percent of California homeowners have earthquake insurance.

Glenn Pomeroy of the California Earthquake Authority said earthquake risk is insurable. The average annual cost of earthquake insurance for a typical home in San Diego is between $100 and $444. Renters can secure financial protection from CEA for as little as $35 per month.

California Earthquakes: How Modern Building Codes Are Making Safer, More Resilient Communities

By Sean M. Kevelighan, CEO, The Insurance Information Institute

 

 

The earthquakes that hit southern California on July 4 and 5 gave us all reason to reflect on a natural disaster that infrequently makes headlines here in the U.S.  A major seismic event occurring near several population centers is the sort of thing that many fear—but it’s also something insurers study constantly to make sure quake-impacted affected areas can recover and rebuild.

Earthquakes and other natural disasters are facts of life. The International Code Council (ICC) helps to create resilience through modern building codes that enable households and communities to rebound faster and more completely after an earthquake.

The ICC reports:

 “On the morning of July 4, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rattled through Southern California, with another 7.1 magnitude quake striking the region the following evening.

“The damage resulting from these events could have been significant. Thanks to the modern, up-to-date building codes in California – based on the International Codes (I-Codes) – the Searles Valley Earthquake resulted in no loss of life and minimal structural damage. The I-Codes are keeping us safe, and this event reminds us of the importance of adopting and effectively implementing current model building codes as a key defense against natural disasters. Building codes save lives.

“According to structural engineers working with the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the homes and buildings experiencing the most severe damage date back to the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Modern buildings built using model codes experienced damage that was largely limited to nonstructural elements or contents.”

We encourage you to read the entire article to learn more about the essential role of building codes in creating a “resilience culture” to make our communities safer and more productive.

Got Earthquake Insurance? Businesses Should AssesS Their Readiness for “The Big One” and Other Natural Disasters

By Loretta L. Worters, Vice President – Media Relations, Insurance Information Institute

Every year businesses temporarily shut down – or close forever – because of a disaster.  The 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes which struck near Ridgecrest, California late last week are stark reminders of a quake’s ability to disrupt a business’ operations. Even though many California businesses are in seismically active areas, only one out of 10 commercial buildings are insured for quakes, according to the California Department of Insurance.

Depending upon a business’ location, the threat to its operations may come from risks other than earthquakes, such as a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire. Forty-plus percent of U.S. small businesses do not reopen after a disaster impacts them, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates. But by taking measures to prepare, businesses can increase their chance of recovering financially from a disaster.

Steps businesses can take in the aftermath of this month’s southern California earthquakes:

1) Review Insurance Coverage: It is important businesses have the right amount and types of insurance for their needs and risk profile. There are two types of policies that can be purchased by a business owner.

  • A Businessowners Policy (BOP) is commonly purchased by small businesses. BOP policies combine property, liability, and business interruption coverages in one policy and are usually less comprehensive than a commercial multiple peril (CMP) policy. Business interruption coverage, also known as business income insurance, reimburses a business owner for lost profits and continuing fixed expenses during the time a business stays closed because of a covered event, such as a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire.
  • A Commercial Multiple Peril (CMP) policy combines several coverages—such as property, boiler and machinery, and general liability—into a single policy. It is typically less expensive to buy a CMP policy than to buy these coverages individually. Boiler and machinery insurance, also known as Equipment Breakdown Insurance, also usually extends to air conditioners, heating, electrical, telephone, and computer systems.
  • Commercial Earthquake Insurance Is Sold Separately: Earthquake-caused property damage and business interruption is not covered under either a standard BOP or CMP policy. Businesses in earthquake-prone parts of the U.S. must consider a separate policy or an endorsement to an existing policy which specifically mentions earthquake-caused damage. Earthquake insurance carries a percentage deductible ranging from 10 percent to 15 percent.

There are some areas of a business that automatically include coverage for earthquakes.  Commercial auto provides coverage for loss or damage from temblors.  This can include damage from falling debris, fire, or other events.  Injury to employees at work because of an earthquake is also a covered loss under workers’ compensation insurance.

2) Develop a Business Recovery Plan: Businesses that are forced to close following a disaster run the risk of never being able to open their doors again. But by developing a business disaster recovery plan, they will be able to determine how their operations will be restored after a natural or operational disaster. Moreover, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) offers a free, customizable toolkit to help businesses plan for any type of business interruption.

3) Take a Business Inventory: Creating a business inventory includes listing equipment, supplies, merchandise, and commercial vehicles. An inventory facilitates the filing of a business insurance claim.

Herein lies the fault:  Businessowners, by their very nature, are risk takers; trailblazers in their respective fields.  Risk-taking is a crucial component of launching and building a successful business, be it with capital investment, hiring employees or marketing strategies. But entrepreneurs who don’t purchase the right type and amount of coverage, including earthquake insurance, end up jeopardizing the enterprise they worked so hard to build, leaving themselves, and their business, on shaky ground.

Earthquakes: More links from Insurance Information Instititute

We posted this look at insurance coverage and earthquakes earlier today. More important links about earthquakes and insurance: