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The Hayward Fault: Are You Ready for the Rupture?

May 31, 2019
The Hayward Fault: Are You Ready for the Rupture?
Some media outlets are using a widget similar to this one to link to an earthquake preparedness resource page.

In 1868, the Hayward Fault in Northern California ruptured, causing a M6.8 earthquake. Even though the San Francisco Bay Area was sparsely populated at the time—there were only about 260,000 people living in the region—the damage from the earthquake was considerable. Chimneys fell, walls cracked, and buildings collapsed. Several East Bay towns were devastated by the shaking, which lasted more than 40 seconds.

Fast forward to today, and the situation is even more serious. There are now more than 7 million people residing in the San Francisco Bay Area; about 2.4 million of them live along the Hayward Fault, which runs through densely populated cities such as Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, and of course, Hayward.

The Hayward Fault is considered by scientists to be one of the most urbanized earthquake faults in the United States. Hundreds of structures are built directly along the fault line, and the fault is crisscrossed by mass transit corridors and major freeways.

The HayWired Earthquake Scenario: A “Tectonic Time Bomb”

Earthquake scientists refer to the Hayward Fault as a “tectonic time bomb,” because it’s due for a large rupture. On average, earthquakes occur along the Hayward Fault about every 150 years; last year marked the 150th anniversary of the last big quake along the fault.

So what would a big quake along the Hayward Fault look like today?

A few years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), with contributions from partners, including the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), set out to determine just that. Working together, they developed the HayWired scenario, an in-depth look at the kind of damage we can expect if a M7.0 earthquake were to strike along the Hayward Fault. Drawing on the latest seismographic data and comparisons with similar historical earthquakes, scientists were able to model what the Bay Area would likely experience during a major seismic event along the fault.

The HayWired scenario is sobering: hundreds of people dead, thousands injured, and tens of thousands of residents suddenly displaced from their homes. Thousands of houses and commercial buildings would be damaged. The estimated financial loss would surpass $100 billion.

But while a major earthquake is inevitable, the HayWired scenario is not. The fact is, we can reduce our risk of earthquake damage by taking steps now to prepare—as individuals, and as a state.

Living in Earthquake Country

Scientists tell us there is a greater than 99% probability that a M6.7 or larger earthquake will strike California sometime in the next 30 years. It may happen along the Hayward Fault, or the San Andreas, or another of the hundreds of active faults in California. While we don’t know which fault will rupture first, we do know how to make all of California more earthquake-resistant.

That’s one reason why CEA has stepped up its public awareness campaign this year. And as part of this effort, CEA has teamed up with eight governmental and nonprofit organizations to create a centralized earthquake resource page just for California residents. This page includes important earthquake risk and preparedness information, and can be found on the websites of dozens of media outlets, including TV and radio stations, as well as newspaper publishers.

One-Stop Shop for Lifesaving Information

CEA spearheaded the creation of the earthquake resource page to make it easy for California residents to access vital information about earthquake preparedness. Our partner organizations, which include entities as diverse as the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), all play an important role in helping Californians before and after a major seismic event.

Our partners have all contributed to the landing page by offering information specific to their respective missions. The American Red Cross, for example, focuses on disaster relief and recovery. Earthquake Brace + Bolt (EBB) offers information on seismic retrofitting. And CEA explains how to buy earthquake insurance in California and how to file a claim.

Check the website of your favorite local media outlet to see if this valuable resource has already been added. And if it has, be sure to bookmark it for future reference. It’s a one-stop source for information to help you protect your health, your home, and your finances from the inevitable earthquake.

Prepare Your House Now for the Coming Earthquake

One important step in preparing for the next big earthquake is to secure your home, especially if you own an older, wood-frame house that sits on a raised foundation. These types of houses tend to slide off their foundations during strong shaking, causing expensive damage. Fortunately, these houses can be made much more stable and earthquake-resistant with a seismic retrofit.

Seismic retrofits for older, wood-frame houses usually consist of two important steps: bracing the walls of the crawl space, and bolting the house to the foundation. (Houses that sit directly on their foundations do not need to be braced). This simple solution is highly effective in keeping an older home from sliding off its foundation during the strong shaking of a major earthquake.

Making Seismic Retrofits Affordable

A typical seismic retrofit costs around $3,000 to $7,000. That may seem expensive, but keep in mind that once a house slides off its foundation, it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild it.

Fortunately, two generous grant programs make retrofitting even more cost-effective by offering up to $3,000 towards the cost of a retrofit. Earthquake Brace + Bolt (EBB) is available to California homeowners who reside in any of 255 high-earthquake-risk ZIP Codes, and has already helped more than 7,000 California homeowners make their houses more stable and earthquake-resistant.

CEA also has its own retrofit grant program, called CEA Brace + Bolt, just for CEA policyholders. Similar to EBB, CEA BB offers grants of up to $3,000. To be eligible, you must have held a CEA policy for at least three consecutive years, and meet other program requirements.

Earthquake Insurance: An Important Part of Earthquake Preparedness

As seismologist Lucy Jones points out, the likelihood of dying in a major earthquake is relatively low, given the large number of people affected. But the odds of going bankrupt or suffering financial hardship are much higher.

Why is that?

Many people mistakenly assume that their homeowners insurance covers earthquake-related losses. But that’s not the case. Homeowners insurance does not cover earthquake damage. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, then you’ll be responsible for all repair costs related to an earthquake. In order to protect your finances from this type of loss, you need a separate earthquake insurance policy for your home.

If you’re interested in shielding your finances from earthquake risk, consider an earthquake insurance policy from CEA. As a not-for-profit earthquake insurance provider, CEA has no shareholders to please, allowing us to base our rates on science. And at CEA, earthquake preparedness is as important as earthquake insurance, which is why we offer CEA policyholders premium discounts of up to 20% (rising to 25% after July 1, 2019) for completing code-compliant retrofits of their insured houses.

Prepare, Retrofit, Insure 

The Big One is coming. Earthquake scientists tell us it’s not a matter of if, but when. Make sure you’re ready. Check out the preparedness resources offered by CEA and its various partners; retrofit your older home, if needed; and buy earthquake insurance to protect your finances.

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