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California Earthquake Alerts To Become Available Statewide

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The system's statewide debut Thursday coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake that ravaged the San Francisco Bay area on Oct. 17, 1989, as well as the annual Great Shakeout safety drill.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 California officials launched the nation's first statewide earthquake early warning system. Today, warnings will come to ways through a new cell phone app called my shake and through the wireless emergency system that sends Amber alerts, the system will be able to warn people a couple of seconds to a minute before shaking starts. The rollout of the earthquake warning alerts comes on the 30th anniversary of the destructive 6.9 Loma Prieta quake and the Bay area and the great California shakeout safety drill. But while most California residents are familiar with how to drop, cover and hold, nearly 90% of homeowners lack the insurance coverage to recover from earthquake damage. Joining us is Glenn Pomeroy. He is the CEO of the California earthquake authority, a nonprofit that provides and manages earthquake insurance state wide. Glenn, welcome. Thank you very much, Glen. In California, earthquakes are really part of life and scientists believe the state is overdue for a major quake. Yet the vast majority of homeowners here don't have earthquake insurance. Why is that?

Speaker 2: 01:05 Well, I, you're right, they don't. And it's a scary proposition because, uh, as you also said, the scientists say we're going to get hit again, it's just a matter of when a 99% probability of a 6.7 sometime in the next 30 years and, and, and, and that could be today or tomorrow or years from now. They can't predict that precisely. But a 6.7 is a serious deal. That's the size of the Northridge earthquake 25 years ago that that resulted in billions of dollars of damage and thousands of homes being ran, rendered, but inhabitable. A lot of people don't buy earthquake insurance for a lot of reasons, and a lot of it is just based on misunderstanding. Uh, they may think it's covered in their homeowners policy, but it's specifically excluded. There's no coverage in the homeowners policy of earthquake insurance. You've got to buy a separate earthquake insurance policy.

Speaker 2: 01:49 They may think the federal government's going to bail them out, but that doesn't happen that FEMA does come with emergency assistance, but the maximum FEMA grants $32,000 and it can't be used to rebuild homes. And that's not enough to get even get started on it anyway. So in fact, the matter is most people are putting their life savings or value they have in their home. They're putting it completely at risk of losing it all the minute the ground shakes, which is why California earthquake authority, this is not for profit organization formed after the Northridge earthquake. A is working hard to make sure that the more California is, are, are aware of just how affordable earthquake insurance has become. Uh, and encourage them to seriously consider putting that protection in place for their home. Impossible to predict exactly when or where the next earthquake will occur. We had a big one this summer of 7.1. It just happened to be out in the Mojave desert, uh, in, in a fairly sparsely populated area. But if you take that 7.1 and, and trigger that on the sanitary S, you know, under a densely populated area or if the, if the, if the Rose Canyon fault goes, which bisects San Diego, we'd be looking at really damages in the billions and billions of dollars.

Speaker 1: 02:57 And speaking of the Rose Canyon, what are the earthquake risks right here in San Diego?

Speaker 2: 03:03 Well, what the scientists say is it's an active fault. It's going to rupture. Again, there's a lot of scientific attention being paid to that right now. In fact, next spring there's going to be a big conference in San Diego of of earthquake experts from around the country. Really there's going to be a lot of attention to understanding and articulating exactly what the risk is for that community and what we do know is that the risk is real and insignificant in fortunately for for those listening, that probability of a massive earthquake soon is less in San Diego than it is in certain areas in LA, in San Francisco, but what that means is earthquake insurance costs less in San Diego as well.

Speaker 1: 03:43 With there being such a risk here and in other places in California, do you think having a new warning system could help mitigate some of the damage?

Speaker 2: 03:51 The new warning system is very exciting with the experts talk about is if there's a surgeon who's performing an operation, he's got sharp instruments in a patient, for example, getting 10 seconds worth of warning. It could be life saving in terms of helping that surgeon get the sharp instruments to a safer place, things like that. Um, Gates can be lowered on top of bridges so the cars quit going out on top of a bridge. Obviously 10 seconds worth of warning doesn't allow a homeowner to go out and quickly get the home retrofitted. You know, I mean there's a limit to what the warning will be able to provide and uh, it's fairly new technology, it'll get better over time, but it's a great step in the right direction of just bringing more information to all of us. In California.

Speaker 1: 04:34 As you mentioned, most homeowners insurance does not include coverage for earthquake damage. So what is the price range for them?

Speaker 2: 04:41 Is this a hard question to answer just because it depends so much how much of policy will cost an individual home will depend on how close that home sits in relation to a fault. How probable is it a pro? What is the probability that false going to rupture sometime soon? When was that home built? Because older homes, um, are more likely to be severely damaged because the construction codes weren't as great. Uh, how much, um, that home is valued in terms of its reconstruction costs. Cause the, the, the more we insure, obviously the more the price of the policy will be. And uh, so those are really, there's some other factors too, but those are the main ones. So the price just depends in the San Diego region, uh, what I've been finding is people are really surprised to find out just how affordable it is. And really we're talking about, um, a pretty, um, comprehensive policies someone can put on their home for literally a few hundred dollars a year, uh, between a few hundred and, and you know, six or $700 a year. Again, depending on the, on the home. And how much coverage you want. You really can get a policy in place and, and, and just have that peace of mind, no one that whatever happens whenever that Rose Canyon goes, you'll be able to financially recover without it. It'd be completely on your, so what else

Speaker 1: 05:58 should residents do to prepare for the next quake?

Speaker 2: 06:00 In addition to having that financial protection in place to know you're going to be able to financially survive, it's just very important to know you're going to be able to survive physically when the ground shakes, which is why this, the shakeout drill that we've just done is so important. Uh, um, we need to teach not all the kids in the schools, but, but all of us who live in earthquake country, what to do. The instant every, the world seems to be turning upside down and, and it's really very simple. Dropped to the ground immediately. Just drop to your knees and elbows cover your head. Um, if it's a drop and cover, if you're nearby a table, you know, you get yourself under that table. But if you're not, just use the back of your hands and use your hands and, and wrap them around the back of your head.

Speaker 2: 06:43 And Nick, and think of the flying objects that are coming off the walls and ceilings that are, that are looking for your head and wanna want to hurt you and protect yourself from that by, by covering your head. So drop to the ground, cover your head and hold on. Just stay in that position until the ground quit, shaken, drop, cover and hold. It's a simple drill. Uh, a simple exercise really. But it's so important to think about it and practice it because the instant the ground starts shaking and it's noisy and frightening, it's too late then to start researching what you're going to do. You need that. You need that muscle memory in place to know how to respond immediately. And that's why this, this exercise is so important.

Speaker 1: 07:22 Good word of caution there. I've been speaking with Glen Pomeroy, CEO of the California earthquake authority. Glenn, thank you very much. Thank you very much.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.