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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Earthquake Insurance

Uploaded: Aug 26, 2014

I've written before that I tend to be a late owl. I stay up to 2 am and sleep until 10 am. More recently I've been staying up to 3 or 4 am. Yup I was on my computer Sunday night, not doing anything important, when I felt a jolt at about 3:22 am.

Oh, it's an earthquake, I thought. It seemed like a pretty strong jolt, followed by another one and then the rolling. That's when I started getting scared. I was ready to dive under my desk when the rolling stopped.

This was the first earthquake I've been through that actually scared me. I've been through several earthquakes when I lived in Culver City, and one in Morro Bay, and several up here in San Ramon, but the one Sunday night was scary.

It didn't feel like a big earthquake but it lasted longer than usual. I went to the USGS Earthquake map to see where it was and how strong it was, but it wasn't listed. Or at least one near here wasn't listed. I tried the SFGate website to get news on the earthquake, but there wasn't anything there at 3:30 am on Sunday.

I tried TV, and finally about 3:40 one of the stations reported on the earthquake in American Canyon. Where's that? I thought it was near Sacramento, but the newscaster said it is near Napa. They said it was 6.0, which is a medium sized quake. I didn't think it caused much damage, so I went to bed.

Today of course we know that the damage in Napa was extensive. I thought Napa was wine country, covered in vineyards and farms. Napa Valley is, but Napa the city is a City with a population of almost 80,000. I didn't realize how densely populated Napa is.

The damage from this earthquake isn't much here in San Ramon. I walked around my house yesterday, to check on any new cracks or shifting of my water barrels or air conditioner. I saw a few cracks in the stucco exterior but these did not look like anything serious. Nothing was moved out of alignment. The rain barrels and piping were intact and the air conditioner was still bolted to the faux concrete pad it is on.

So nothing for me to worry about here. But the photos from Napa are very different. Windows blown out, roofs shifted, chunks of concrete on the ground, and interior belongings strewn in pieces in partially collapsed homes.

Even though I was awake during the earthquake here, the scene from Napa was a wakeup call. We are always being reminded that "the big one" is due or overdue for this area. San Francisco is on the San Andreas Fault, but San Ramon is on the Hayward Fault, and that one would be far more devastating to us here.

I do not have earthquake insurance. Its very expensive and has a very big deductible. The "big one" seemed too far away to worry about. But now it's a lot closer only 50 miles away in Napa. There were a few serious injuries and two deaths, but most of the residents are OK. The biggest problem is rebuilding.

Many homes are red tagged, which means uninhabitable. They will probably have to be torn down and rebuilt. Even if the homes can be rebuilt, the cost will be very high. This is all starting to look more real to me.

I emailed my insurance agent about earthquake insurance. I suppose she's getting a lot of queries about it now. I don't want to panic into paying a large amount for something that might not happen for 20 years or more.

Here's my correspondence with Denise Craig, my Farmer's agent in Danville.


I'm thinking about getting earthquake insurance. I started a quote on the Farmer's website. It referred me to you. I suppose you are getting a lot of inquiries about this now. How much would it cost to add earthquake coverage for my house?

Roz Rogoff"

"Hi Roz, hope you're doing well. There is a 15 day moratorium on EQ policies right now. It's always this way until things have settled. I've attached a quote for you to look over; page 2 shows the EQ coverage and premium.

We can get a policy going after the moratorium has been lifted if you like. ½ needs to be paid upfront the remainder is billed 2 months later. The policy has a 15% deductible also.

Denise "


Let me see if I got this right. The first listing is the coverage I already have on my house, which is $622.87. Is the earthquake coverage $887 or is the total insurance for the house $887? I'd go for adding $264 for earthquake, but not another almost $900 a year.


"The EQ policy costs more than the homeowners policy, your home is the $622 a year and the EQ policy will run you $887 for the year. That's why not many people have EQ coverage, it's way too expensive and with the 15% deductible ($35,250) it would take a lot to have it pay for anything.

"Thanks Denise. That's why I never got it. I have the flood insurance for about $400 a year, but I'm right by the creek, so it could flood here. I'll keep my fingers crossed that we don't get a big earthquake in the next 20 years.


"Me too as I don't have it either!!
What is it worth to you?


Posted by LT Resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 29, 2014 at 10:09 am

Thanks for the article.

I did a check of the cost of a policy on my home and it was over $400 per month and that included the 10% deductible. The deductible is so large that my one story home would have to have a lot of damage before the policy would pay the first dollar. I have lived in my home for more than 30 years and the cost of the policy premiums would be more than $100,000 over that time. I put one of my children through college for that amount. Even in the 1989 earthquake I had so little damage that I wouldn't be able to claim even 1% of the value of my home.

I would have to cover the first $70-80,000 of damage to even make a claim. It's not worth the $5,000 per year premium.

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 29, 2014 at 1:04 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

L T Resident,

$400 a month is less than half of what I was quoted. Farmers takes a 15% deduction too. So whichever insurance you are with offers a better deal than mine. That's not to say it is a good deal, but it sounds better than most.

As you say, it isn't worth the investment. It's probably better to spend the money on Seismic retrofitting than earthquake insurance. There's a store that opened in Dublin a few years ago that specializes in earthquake preparedness such as straps for fastening pictures and furniture to walls. I'm not sure if it is still there, but even Home Depot would have some of these items to minimize damage from the shaking. That's the best insurance I can think of right now.


Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 2, 2014 at 8:41 am

Until (if ever) earthquake insurance becomes more standardized/cover minimal damages and less costly? People will continue to have to forego it in California. It's sad yet wholly understandable - we're all "insured" to the hilt as it is when one considers ALL the insurances we carry. It is a most pathetic commentary when we can't even cover minimal damage at a reasonable cost when we're already carrying HO insurance. Then again? People right close to the epicenter who retrofitted their homes? Had substantial damage ANYWAY. You can't "win for losing" on this one, and the insurance companies per se? Well take a look at what THEY MAKE YEARLY and pay their upper echelon as it is, astounding (if not greedy)

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Sep 2, 2014 at 2:08 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

Ms. Bunny,

Right now the most cost effective protection is to strap all tall furniture and heavy appliances to reinforced studs in walls. I checked Lowes and Home Depot and they sell a variety of straps for furniture, TVs, monitors, and computer equipment. These are not expensive and could be installed on all of my larger pieces for a few hundred dollars.

Luigi installed latches on my kitchen cabinets to keep the cats from hiding in there. These will also keep the doors closed in an earthquake. I will have him install similar latches on the upper cabinets now.

Many years ago the State paid for seismic inspections. I had an inspector check my house here and to my big surprise he said it was one of the best he's seen. So either a previous owner had it retrofitted or it was built better than most 40+ year old homes here.


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