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On anniversary of massive 1952 quake, state says to get insured

Railroad tunnels and tracks were heavily damaged by the 1952 earthquake.

Railroad tunnels and tracks were heavily damaged by the 1952 earthquakes. The tracks were heaved out of line in some areas and buried in others.

Sixty-five years ago Friday, Kern County residents were jolted awake by a 7.3-magnitude earthquake at 4:52 a.m. — one of the biggest temblors in California history.

The California Earthquake Authority marked the milestone by trying to educate locals on the benefits of earthquake insurance.

“This anniversary serves as a reminder that it’s wise to take steps to be prepared for quakes, which come with no warning,” state agency CEO Glenn Pomeroy said in a statement. “History shows that damaging earthquakes can happen across California at any time.”

The July 21, 1952, quake and the powerful aftershock on Aug. 22 that year resulted in 14 deaths and at least $50 million in property damage — equivalent to $458 million today, CEA officials said.

Southern California has a 75 percent chance of having an earthquake of 7.0 or greater over the next 30 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Los Angeles region more specifically has a 60 percent chance of a 6.7 or more in the same period.

"Insurance is meant to help you recover when a devastating event hits," California Insurance Department spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid said.

She said the key to deciding whether to get earthquake insurance is to ask three questions: What's your proximity to faults? What type of soil is your home sitting on? What is your home's construction (raised, platform, stilts)?

City officials have described Bakersfield's soil as sand and clay.

Sarah Sol, the CEA media relations manager, pointed out that the southern Central Valley is lined by several faults, which include the San Andreas fault to the west, the Garlock fault to the south and Sierra Nevada faults to the east.

In its press release, the CEA said Kern County residents are "very well-positioned to protect themselves financially from costly property damage caused by earthquakes."

Using the CEA's premium calculator, Sol estimated an annual premium for earthquake insurance on a nearly 30-year-old house would cost $100 to $521 — lower than most places in California.

These plans can incorporate a variety of options, including one for upgrading a damaged home to current building code.

The premium calculator can be found on CEA's website at

Kincaid also recommended people spend a couple thousand dollars to retrofit their home.

But what if something like the 1906 San Francisco or 1994 Northridge earthquake hits? Would there be enough money for all those claims?

Both Kincaid and Sol said yes.

"We're in solid financial strength," Sol said. "If any of these largest ones occur, we could cover all those claims."

CEA was created when homeowners were struggling with their earthquake insurance after the Northridge jolt, the costliest in U.S. history. Now, CEA has more than 20 major member insurance companies with the deal that CEA covers the risk and the costs of claims.

CEA said on its website that it has more than $14 billion in claim-paying capacity and it is the largest provider of residential earthquake insurance in the country.

The state Department of Insurance's data from 2015 showed CEA policies take up at least 76 percent of the earthquake insurance market in California.

The California Department of Insurance is the largest consumer protection agency in the state and it handles all things insurance-related.

Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at 661-395-7368. Follow her on Twitter: @TBCCityBeat.

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