With events such as the Kern River Valley’s Erskine blaze in the headlines, it’s clear homeowners need to be aware of fire dangers. However, floods and extreme weather (think wind or rain), and earthquakes can also be as damaging. We’re sure you’ve heard of the San Andreas fault and the blockbuster with the same name (which was partially filmed in, you guessed it… Bakersfield), but what you might not know is that this famed fault line runs through parts of Kern County.
These examples of mother nature’s “nasty” side should serve as a good reminder to not only brush up on the simple steps you can take to protect you and your family but also the types of financial protection that are available you can put in place in the form of homeowners insurance. A typical policy will cover things like fire and lightning or even volcanic eruptions, but won’t have provisions for damages from earthquakes, floods, or nuclear hazards!
Thankfully, we don’t have many volcanic eruptions in Kern, but we are prone to flooding.
Ryan Crosby, agent at Crosby & Crosby Insurance said, “flood is written on a separate policy which is through the National Flood Program which is part of FEMA and the rates vary depending on the flood zone you’re in.” Certain parts of town are more likely to flood, so it’s important to be aware of the risk depending on where you live.
He also offered some tips, which could help you save money. “It’s best to combine your home and auto because you can save up to 25% by doing that. So if you’re not a homeowner and you just have 2 autos on your policy and then you purchase a home, you can potentially save up to 25% by looking at combining both policies.” To get the ball rolling homeowners will “want an agent that is going to do a complete replacement cost estimator to estimate the replacement value of their property, which is different than the market value of their property.”
The California Earthquake Authority is a non-profit earthquake insurance company created by the legislature after the Northridge earthquake of 1994. Their CEO, Glenn Pomeroy, explained that while earthquake coverage is excluded from homeowners policies about 75% of insurance companies in the state are participating insurers, so be sure to ask your agent about it if you want to be covered. Pomeroy said, “The only way to be protected is with a separate policy. It’s so much more valuable and affordable than ever before so it’s a good time to take that step of putting that preparation in place.” With insurance companies handling the paperwork and sales, giving the CEA the ability to run cheaply, saving homeowners money in the process. Pomeroy said, “we make our policy just as affordable as we possibly can by lowering rates wherever possible… We’ve lowered our rates a total of 55% over time while we’ve been in existence.” He mentioned that “earthquake insurance used to be really restrictive in terms of what someone could buy by way of insuring their stuff that’s inside, personal property coverage, but we now offer up to 200,000 dollars worth.” If you want to check out policy options, there’s an easy to use premium calculator on their website at www2.earthquakeauthority.com
Pomreroy added that homeowners “just have to take simple steps to make sure their home has undertaken some earthquake preparedness steps – making sure that heavy objects are secured to the wall, [and] aren’t going to come loose easily, tumble down and hurt somebody.” First, “make the physical property safer and then put in place financial protection in case that home is badly damaged or destroyed. They’re going to be on their own without earthquake insurance,” he concluded.
And what about helpful tips for protecting ourselves from fires? Captain Tyler Townsend at the Kern County Fire Department shared, “we encourage people to practice fire safety in the home. Many of the injuries that we see are in and around the kitchen.” He went on to say that it’s important to “never leave cooking food unattended in the kitchen” and to “have a working smoke alarm and a fire extinguisher. Do not put water on a grease fire, [instead] cover the fire with a lid if possible, leave the kitchen, and call 9-1-1.” He also explained that those living in a Wildland Urban Interface (Kern’s mountain communities) “are probably already well aware of the requirements to maintain defensible space around your home. This is essential to keeping your home and your community safe.” Information about defensible space requirements can be found at www.kerncountyfire.org.
There are many practical ways to prepare your family and your home in case something happens and insurance is an important tool to have in any emergency preparedness plan. It doesn’t have to be intimidating – once you find an agent you trust make sure to ask lots of questions and inquire about specific coverage, you know, in case mother nature flexes her muscles. You’ll be glad you did.
Photos by Trey Spooner