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Reminding homeowners the need to keep their homes safe | Opinion




The California housing market is as tight as they come. There has been some slight population decline in recent years, but the beautiful beaches, parks, cities and weather continue to draw people to the nation’s third largest state by area, where 39 million people still live in the Golden State. All natural beauty comes with risks: the potential for natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and wildfires to damage our homes.

A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identified 20 separate climate or weather-related events that cost more than $1 billion each, making 2021 one of the costliest disaster years in US history. In the West, these included wildfires, severe flooding associated with storms, and more. In other words, if you own a home in California, you should be aware that the risks of your property being damaged by a natural disaster can be very high.

Earthquakes, for example, can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage or displace your family from their home. Like all of California, the Central Valley—which is surrounded by faults—is an earthquake country. Shaking can start suddenly but has lasting effects.

Reports chronicle how difficult it is for residents to pay for repairs when a disaster strikes near the house — even if they have insurance. It’s time to change our thinking about how to recover from these inevitable events (and hopefully the government will save us) and instead start planning how to reduce the likelihood or scale of damage to our homes in the first place.

Just saying people “should live in a safe area” is not practical. Sometimes it is impossible to locate a site that is not close to an earthquake fault or prone to drought – or live in a home built according to the latest building codes. This is especially true in many counties in California. For example, more than 47 percent of Kern County housing units were built before 1980, when statewide seismic building codes were established. As California embarks on a plan to add to its housing stock, it is clear that we need to strengthen and strengthen our existing homes to reduce the risk of them being damaged – not just for homeowners, but also to protect our communities.

Spring is in the air, when home projects and renovations are planned (a tax refund may be on your way). This is the perfect time to assess the weaknesses in your home and determine what you can do to strengthen it to withstand disaster.

• Adding simple supports and pulls into an old home’s crawl space can strengthen it against earthquake vibrations. Prop seismic retrofits cost about $5,000 in Southern California and can prevent hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair costs from the kind of damage that could displace you and your family for months or years.

• You can protect your structure from wildfires by clearing the area within five feet of its perimeter, removing flammable materials, such as wood chips, and combustible landscaping and replacing them with decorative rocks and fire-resistant plants that will prevent flying embers from igniting. Install ventilation holes that prevent embers from entering your home and burning from the inside out. This could range from $500 to $3,000, depending on the size of your home. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety charts a course in preparing your home for wildfires with low-cost, higher-cost solutions.

Other effective tips to help local homeowners avoid facing catastrophic bills don’t necessarily involve a lot of money – just a little effort.

Check out these resources to help assess and reduce your home’s risk of damage from natural disasters:

• The Insurance Information Institute’s Resilience Accelerator: Homeowner’s Risk Profile and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services MyHazards can help you understand the risks where you live and some recommended actions you can take.

• helps home inspection professionals assess the extent of earthquake damage and offers suggestions for improvements.

• offers tips for preventing costly earthquake damage to older California homes.

• The FEMA website provides lists of safeguards to prepare your home for a variety of risks, and provides many resources, including risk mitigation strategies.

Sarah Sol is the director of media relations for the California Seismic Authority and Janet Ruiz is the director of strategic communications for the Insurance Information Institute.




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