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San Diego Earthquake Risk - Predictions for the Rose Canyon Fault

March 16, 2020
San Diego Earthquake Risk - Predictions for the Rose Canyon Fault

What to Expect from a San Diego Earthquake Along the Rose Canyon Fault

Sunny San Diego, California’s oldest city and second largest population center with 3.3 million residents, holds a great risk of serious earthquake damage. While no one can provide a date-certain San Diego earthquake prediction, scientists estimate that there is a 99% probability of a major earthquake in the near future. It is a case of when, not if, the next major earthquake hits the region.

The boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates runs to the east of San Diego County from the Gulf of California up through the Salton Sea and into the Los Angeles region. The San Andreas network of faults can cause powerful earthquakes—as big as magnitude 8—that can generate strong shaking levels in San Diego. Beyond this network, San Diego is home to two active earthquake faults:

  •  The Rose Canyon fault, an extension of the Los Angeles Newport-Inglewood fault, runs along the coast and beneath downtown San Diego. In a recent report, earthquake geologists and engineers say this fault is the biggest earthquake threat to San Diego, capable of earthquakes of magnitude 6.9. 
  • The Elsinore and San Jacinto faults cut through East County and can also generate moderately-sized but potentially damaging earthquakes. 

The san diego earthquake scenario

A Rose Canyon earthquake could bring devastation to San Diego and its Mexican sister cities. The Rose Canyon Fault is a right-lateral, strike-slip fault running in a north-south direction through the county of San Diego resting beneath the heart of San Diego.

Watch this USGS San Diego Earthquake Scenario video to see how the earth would move. 

The San Diego-Tijuana cross border community is home to more than 5 million people with shared infrastructures and economies. The region’s large population and poor seismic resistance of its older buildings and infrastructure systems make San Diego communities vulnerable to earthquakes.

  • 45% of residential building would be damaged.
  • 23,000 residential units would suffer severe or completed damage.
  • 36,000 households would be displaced.

The Rose Canyon Fault is a right-lateral, strike-slip fault running in a north-south direction through the county of San Diego resting beneath the heart of San Diego

predicted effects & impact of a major earthquake in san diego

Life as we know it in San Diego would be disrupted after a major earthquake on the Rose Canyon Fault zone. The recent EERI San Diego Earthquake Scenario study estimated that the region would experience $5.2 billion lost income, and 36,000 households would be displaced. The earthquake would ruin San Diego’s aging apartments and houses, adding to the crisis in affordable housing. Water, sewer lines and gas line services could be out for months. The I-5 transportation corridor as well as airport and rail services would be seriously affected by the rupture. Other impacts include:

  • Widespread liquefaction along Mission Bay, Mission Valley, the San Diego International Airport, Coronado island and the South Bay cities of Chula Vista, National City and Imperial Beach.
  • Liquefaction on the nation’s fourth biggest Department of Defense facilities, home to three nuclear aircraft carriers.
  • Earthquake-triggered landslides on the hills of San Diego would affect Mount Soledad, Point Loma, Mission Valley, and Sorrento Valley.

Is your house near the rose canyon fault?

The Rose Canyon fault in San Diego starts near Mission Valley and heads north toward La Jolla where it joins other faults. Most Californians live near an active earthquake fault.

Find out about your home’s earthquake risk with CEA’s earthquake fault  by county.

How to prepare your home before an earthquake strikes

Prepare your home BEFORE an earthquake. Decrease your risk of San Diego earthquake damage and injury by identifying possible home hazards:

  • Tall, heavy furniture that could topple, such as bookcases, china cabinets, or modular wall units.
  • Water heaters that are not up to code by being strapped could rupture.
  • Stoves and appliances that could move enough to rupture gas or electrical lines.
  • Hanging plants in heavy pots that could swing free of hooks.
  • Heavy picture frames or mirrors over a bed.
  • Latches on kitchen cabinets or other cabinets that will not hold the door closed during shaking.
  • Breakables or heavy objects that are kept on high or open shelves.
  • A masonry chimney that could crumble and fall through an unsupported roof.
  • Flammable liquids, such as painting or cleaning products, which would be safer in a garage or outside shed.

If your home was built before 1980, consider a seismic retrofit to strengthen your house’s foundation and to make it more resistant to shaking. CEA offers earthquake home insurance premium discounts for houses and that have been retrofitted. Find out about grants to help with retrofits under the Earthquake Brace & Bolt Program, and the CEA Brace & Bolt program.

More than 50%25 The percentage of residential structures in both the city of San Diego and the county that were built before 1980, the year modern seismic building codes were implemented statewide. These homes may be more vulnerable to earthquake damage. At least 23 percent of the housing structures in the city and 19 percent in the county were built prior to 1950 and may be particularly vulnerable

Understanding Geologic & Structural Risks

The Rose Canyon fault activity holds the potential for great devastation for the San Diego community.

Understand the potential geologic and structural threats to your home in case of a major earthquake by learning your San Diego earthquake risk.

The violent shaking from earthquakes can rupture the earth, trigger landslides and turn the surface of the earth to liquid. Your home also may be vulnerable to serious structural damage if it was built before 1980.

Nearly 1.2 million  The number of vulnerable homes in high-seismic-hazard areas of California that CEA estimates could benefit from seismic retrofitting because they were built prior to 1980 on raised foundations

Do You Need Earthquake Insurance

78%25 The percentage of residents with home or renters insurance in San Diego County who do not have an earthquake insurance policy from CEA or another insurance company

The San Diego earthquake risk can strike at any time of day or at any location. Earthquakes can cause extensive damage to the foundation, siding and roof of homes. Homes built before 1980 on a raised foundation are especially vulnerable if they are not retrofitted.

What would you do in the following scenarios in the event of a large earthquake?

  • Without residential earthquake insurance can you afford all repair, replacement and/or rebuilding costs to your home and belongings?
  • Wait for government disaster assistance? If available, FEMA’s help only comes in the form of a small grant or capped loan, which may cover only a portion of your repair costs.
  • Where would you live if your home was made uninhabitable because of earthquake damage? Without Loss of Use earthquake coverage—which includes covering additional expenses of living elsewhere if you have to move out of your home because of earthquake damage to your home—you’d still be paying your mortgage plus temporary housing rent during the time repairs are underway.

Earthquake Insurance San Diego

Earthquake insurance is available to meet your needs and pocketbook. CEA affordable earthquake insurance policies let you select the coverage that fits your budget. Our insurance rates are based on the latest science and research. Rates are determined by several factors including your home’s age, location near a fault, foundation type, construction type, and roof type.

Personal Preparedness Guidelines

In the event of a major San Diego earthquake, you may get a warning of 10 or 15 seconds, which isn’t very much time. Be prepared with emergency plans and supplies.

Remember to Drop, Cover, and Hold On.

  • Drop to the ground. You will be more protected from falling and flying debris.
  • Cover. Get under your dining room table or desk. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Hold On. Stay inside and in place until shaking stops. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.

It’s not enough to be prepared physically when the ground shakes. It’s also important to be financially prepared. Find an affordable earthquake insurance policy to protect you when Rose Canyon fault causes a major San Diego earthquake.

How to Stay Safe

People get hurt by major California earthquakes in two ways:

  • The first way is that people lose their balance, and they fall—often breaking a wrist, forearm, or hip.
  • The second way people get hurt in earthquakes is that things start falling from the ceiling, the walls, and the bookshelves. Most injuries are caused by things falling on you, such as plate glass out of a building, a brick unreinforced masonry façade to a building, or a bookcase inside your home.

Reduce your San Diego earthquake risk by practicing the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety.

Buying the Right Coverage

Be prepared for the big one. Invest in your safety and protect the investment in your home with earthquake insurance.

Annual costs for earthquake premiums in San Diego depend on the amount of coverage, the location of your home, your home’s structure, and the amount of deductible you select.

Example CEA earthquake insurance premiums for homes in San Diego
Costs below depend on the amount of coverage the policyholder decides to purchase and what deductible they select. Use CEA’s Premium Calculator at to explore policy options and premium costs for your own home.

CEA affordable and flexible home earthquake policies:

  • Offer choices of coverage and deductibles.
  • Protect the investment in your home.
  • Provide you with peace of mind when, not if, the big one hits.

Whether you are a homeowner, mobilehome owner, condo-unit owner or renter, find out how to buy the best choices in earthquake insurance. Home insurance policies and tenant insurance don’t include earthquake coverage. The homeowner or renter needs a separate or companion earthquake policy to cover damages from an earthquake. Get started today with a free estimate.

Premium Discounts

Be prepared for San Diego earthquake risk. A seismic retrofit involves strengthening your home’s foundation to make it more resistant to shaking. CEA offers earthquake home insurance premium discounts for houses and mobilehomes that have been retrofitted. Find out about grants to help pay for retrofits under the Earthquake Brace & Bolt Program, and the CEA Brace & Bolt program.

$4700The average cost of a brace-and-bolt seismic retrofit in Southern Californiavii - the cost for a bolt-only retrofit is typically lower

Get a free earthquake insurance estimate!

Will you be able to pay for the damages to your home and belongings when the big one strikes San Diego on the Rose Canyon fault? Without CEA’s affordable earthquake residential insurance, you will be responsible for the cost to repair your home and replace your belongings after a major earthquake. Select from 5%-25% deductibles. Find out if earthquake insurance in San Diego is right for you with a free estimate today.

Want more?

Looking for more info on the San Diego Earthquake Planning Scenario? Download our Fact Sheet, which has valuable summaries and data on the scenario, plus information about earthquake insurance and seismic retrofitting.

Fact Sheet: Reducing the risk of residential earthquake loss in San Diego and statewide 2020 (PDF)

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