What To Do Before and After an Earthquake

What To Do Before and After an Earthquake

The recent large earthquakes in Southern California are a reminder to always be earthquake-ready.

Earthquakes come on suddenly, with very little warning. They can be a sharp jolt followed by the ground shaking and cracking, or waves rolling across the ground.

Earthquakes can hit anywhere at any time, and while the West Coast is considered “earthquake country,” the U.S. Geological Survey warns that earthquakes have been registered in every state in the union, with special seismic hazards for areas encompassing the western-third of the nation, and areas extending from Missouri and Illinois to most of the Eastern Seaboard.

After an earthquake strikes many are often left disoriented and full of adrenaline –psyche and security shaken as much as their house. Post-quake your home or apartment may look damage-free, but there can be many hidden dangers.

After checking your family and others for injuries, here are key steps you need to take to ensure your safety:

  1. Check for gas and water line leaks. Know where the shutoff valves are if you smell gas or detect water leaking to prevent fires and water damage.
  2. Be aware of downed power lines.They can still carry a dangerous current.
  3. Inspect chimneys and brick areas for cracks. If cracked, they could send dangerous debris down on you or others.
  4. Check water heater and furnace vents. If they have become separated, it could send dangerous carbon monoxide into the home.
  5. Watch for electrical sparking or the smell of burning wire insulation. This could lead to a fire. Unplug any broken lights or appliances and turn off power at the main fuse box if you detect an issue.
  6. Clean up spilled medicines, drugs or harmful chemicals. Bleach, turpentine, hazardous garden supplies, etc.
  7. Don’t drink from faucets or other unprotected water sources. Wait until given the okay from your municipality or utility, because they could be contaminated.

Always Plan Ahead

Before an earthquake, or other natural disaster hits, you should always have a plan. Here are some tips to help you and your family prepare:

  • Develop a family communication plan and “meet-up” location if you become separated
  • Have your first aid kit fully stocked
  • Prepare an emergency kit with: water, medicines, food, money, other important documents, etc.
  • Have basic emergency supplies gathered all in one place: flash lights, batteries, blankets, a radio, lighters or matches, cell phone chargers, extra clothes
  • Be sure to have coverage insurance.

If you have comprehensive coverage with your auto insurance, your vehicle is covered for damage from falling debris and other impacts from earthquakes.

However, earthquake damage is not covered under your homeowners or renters insurance policy, and less than 20% of Americans have purchased a policy. That means most people whose property suffers losses from a temblor will be paying out of pocket or relying on federal assistance and loans for recovery.

You can be prepared; California Casualty provides earthquake insurance as an endorsement to home owners policies in California, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon and Rhode Island. We also offer earthquake coverage through our partner, GeoVera Insurance Company, in California, Oregon and Washington. Learn more and get a quote at 877.652.2638 or visit www.calcas.com/earthquake-insurance.


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Earthquakes: What Now?


Ask anyone who has experienced a large earthquake; the experience is not fun. Walls shake, the earth rolls, and you have no control over what might happen for the next few seconds – or up to a minute – as the roller coaster continues. Californians are more aware after the recent temblor in Napa.

Now, there is more concern as the U.S. Geological Survey has expanded their maps of earthquake prone areas. The new mapping shows 42 states now facing a reasonable chance of a damaging quake within 50 years, with 16 sates facing a high risk of damaging ground movement. Those high risk states are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Before a major shake “rocks your world,” Ready.gov has a comprehensive list of earthquake preparedness tips:

  • Prepare an emergency kit, have an evacuation plan and determine how your family will communicate
  • Fasten shelves securely to walls
  • Make sure large or heavy items are on lower shelves and breakable items like bottles, glass and china are stored in low, closed cabinets with latches
  • Repair defective electrical wiring or leaky gas connections and install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall
  • Hold earthquake drills with your entire family

Safety is paramount after the shaking has subsided. The American Red Cross has a checklist of does and don’ts following an earthquake that include:

  • Turn off water and gas main-lines to your dwelling
  • Stay away from downed power lines and damaged structures
  • Extinguish small fires
  • Clean up spilled medications, bleach or other dangerous liquids
  • Monitor updates with battery powered or hand-crank radios
  • Offer help to those who might be trapped or need special assistance.

Once you are in a safe place, contact your insurance company. Keep in mind that earthquake damage is not a part of most people’s home insurance policy; separate earthquake coverage needs to be purchased. Earthquake insurance is available as an endorsement to California Casualty homeowners in California, Oregon, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Rhode Island and California Casualty has partnered with GeoVera to underwrite earthquake insurance for homeowners in California, Oregon and Washington. If you need earthquake protection, call a California Casualty advisor today at 1.800.800.9410.

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Earthquake and Flood Safety

Today, an 8.9-magnitude quake struck Japan, causing widespread devastation and setting off a chain of tsunamis that are affecting coastlines as far away as California. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those whose lives have been turned upside-down by this historic disaster.

When things like this occur – it’s important that we remind ourselves of steps to take in the face of disaster.

Earthquake safety is all about preparedness. We found a list of 7 Steps to Earthquake Safety, and wanted to share them with you here:

– Identify hazards such as heavy items that aren’t secured, and repair them
– Create a disaster plan
– Prepare disaster kits that contain first aid items and fresh water
– Identify building weaknesses and repair them
– Drop, Cover, and Hold on
– After an earthquake, check for injuries and damage
– Follow your disaster plan

We encourage you to read the full description of the steps here.

We also recently posted a guide to flood safety, which can be important in the aftermath of a tsunami. Follow the link to read.

Earthquake Safety for Schools

In many areas, a major safety concern is the ongoing threat of earthquakes. While they can’t be avoided, it is possible to take steps to mitigate the damage from these occurrences.

As part of our commitment to educators, I want to share an interesting webinar offered by the Applied Technology Council. This webinar will provide more information on steps that can be taken to improve the earthquake safety of schools. It may be a little too scientific for some, but I thought it would be of interest to some folks out there!

Here’s more info:

Numerous school buildings located in multiple States and U.S. territories are vulnerable to earthquake losses and damage. This includes potential:
•    Death and injury of students, teachers, and staff
•    Damage to or collapse of buildings
•    Damage and loss of furnishings, equipment, and building contents
•    Disruption of educational programs and school operations
•    Inability of the community to use schools as temporary shelters

At this webinar, you will learn the following:
•    How to assess and analyze your earthquake risks
•    How to develop an actionable plan to reduce and manage earthquake risks
•    How to initiate an earthquake risk reduction plan for existing school buildings that were not designed and constructed to meet modern building codes
•    How to secure “non-structural” elements of the school facility
•    How to apply “incremental seismic rehabilitation” to protect buildings and ensure occupant safety
•    Why “incremental seismic rehabilitation” is an affordable alternative for school safety

Swimming Pools and Your Homeowner’s Insurance

Swimming Pools and Your Homeowner’s Insurance

There’s nothing like a refreshing dip in the pool on a hot summer day. That’s why a swimming pool can be a great investment for your property. However, pools come with their fair share of risks, which is why protecting them with the right insurance is so important.

Swimming pools are covered under your homeowner’s insurance. They are covered in two ways: (1) other structures or personal property coverage and (2) liability insurance. The first covers damage to the pool. The second covers injuries to guests—both invited and possibly trespassers.


Other Structures or Personal Property Coverage

If your pool is in the ground or installed permanently above the ground on your property, it is covered under Coverage B – Other Structures. This is an insurance term describing a detached structure on your property. Other structures include pools, fences, gazebos, sheds, etc. However, if your pool is above-ground but portable, it is considered part of your personal property and covered by Coverage C – Personal Property insurance.

    • Coverage B – Other Structures – insurance covers open perils. That means a loss is covered unless it’s excluded. Typical exclusions include flood, earthquake, or wear and tear.

    • Coverage C – Personal Property – insurance covers named perils. That means the loss is only covered if it is one of the 16 named perils (for example, fire, explosion, theft, etc.).


If a tree falls on your pool and damages it, your policy would help with repairs, minus your deductible, the amount you chose to pay out-of-pocket before insurance kicks in.

    • The coverage limit for other structures is generally set at 10% of your home’s coverage limit. That means if your home is insured for $200,000, the coverage limit for your pool would be $20,000. For an additional premium, you can add an endorsement for additional coverage: Other Structures – Increased Limits. You may wish to do so if your pool is worth more, such as if it has a deck, waterslide, diving board, or waterfall. (Note that some companies will not insure pools with slides and diving boards, as these can present additional risk.)

    • Portable pools are covered under personal property. Depending upon the personal property limit that you set for your policy, you will get reimbursed if your pool is damaged by a covered peril. If your home is insured for $200,000, and your personal property coverage is 50%, 25%, your policy will pay up to $100,000 for repairs for covered perils. Personal property coverage for homeowners is 50% or 75%; renters may choose the amount that they wish for Coverage C.

This coverage comes with stipulations. You need to shut off the water supply and drain all systems and appliances of water at the end of the season. The loss may not be covered if the pool’s plumbing freezes. Insurers do not cover loss of property caused by faulty, inadequate, or defective maintenance.



Liability Coverage

If someone is injured — or tragically dies — in your pool, your liability policy can help to cover expenses from medical bills to lawsuits. This doesn’t apply to you or the members of your household but potentially covers any invited guests or even uninvited strangers.

Typical homeowner’s policies include $100,000 for base liability coverage. You will want to increase to the highest limit available if you have a swimming pool Alternatively, you can purchase a personal umbrella policy for additional coverage. An umbrella policy kicks in when you’ve reached the limits of your homeowner’s policy.


An Attractive Nuisance

Attractive nuisance is a term used to describe anything that might attract children and present a potential danger to them. Swimming pools are classified as attractive nuisances. As a homeowner, and owner of a pool, you are responsible to secure your pool to keep it as safe as possible from curious kids—or anyone else. Under the law, you may be found liable for any incidents even if you didn’t give someone permission to be on your property or in the pool.

    • Install a fence around your pool and a locked gate to secure it.
    • Install a locking pool cover that will hold the weight of an adult.
    • Move the ladder away when your pool is not in use.
    • Install an alarm that alerts you when someone is in the pool.
    • Consider a security camera to help you monitor the pool.
    • Follow any local laws on pool construction and safety.



Replacement Cost vs. Actual Cash Value

If the pool is portable, it is eligible for replacement cost under Coverage C. If it is not portable, you will insure it for actual cash value (ACV). ACV is the amount the item is worth, minus depreciation for its age. In a loss for other structures such as a pool, you will not receive more than the amount required to repair or replace it.

Refer to your policy to know what is covered and what is not covered so that you aren’t surprised in the event of an injury or damage. Choosing the right insurance will help give you peace of mind as you enjoy your pool this summer.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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