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California's Earthquake Brace and Bolt Program

Lower Potential Damage in Case of Earthquake
Lower Earthquake Insurance Premiums

The Pilot Program. In September of 2013, California began a pilot program in which the State provided a grant of up to $3,000 to homeowners in a few designated areas that were at high risk for earthquakes. The funds were to be used to retrofit the homes to minimize damage in the case of earthquake. The experimental program is called the Earthquake Brace and Bolt (EBB) program. It provided seismic retrofit grants to approximately 650 homeowners with qualifying homes in designated zip codes located in Napa, Alameda, San Francisco and Los Angeles counties. All funds available to the pilot program have been exhausted and no new grant applications are currently being accepted.
collapsed home
New Funding Beginning July1. However, the 2015-2016 state budget recently approved by the legislature and signed by Governor Brown on June 24, 2015, contains an additional $3,000,000 for new grants. According to the EBB web site (earthquakebracebolt.com), applications for grants will be accepted beginning on July 1, 2015. The EBB program is administered by the California Residential Mitigation Program, which is a joint powers authority of the California Earthquake Authority and the the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. At present, grants are only available to eligible homeowners with homes located in designated zip codes in a handful of counties. (A list of eligible zip codes and cities is available at (earthquakebracebolt.com). However, the program will be expanded to additional areas, and you can find out what new zip codes are added to the eligibility list by signing up for the program's newsletter. Only certain types of construction are eligible. Generally, houses constructed before 1997, on level or low slope land, with four feet or less of cripple walls under the first floor, and having raised foundations are eligible. Grant recipients will be chosen in a  random drawing from among qualifying applications. Grants cover the eligible costs of a retrofit up to $3,000. In other words, if your retrofit costs $2,000, your grant will be in that amount. If the retrofit costs $4,000, your grant will be for $3,000. The EBB program authority estimates that the average retrofit will cost between $3,000 and $7,000. While most qualifying homeowners will probably choose to hire a contractor to perform the retrofit, the EBB website states that: "The seismic retrofit work outlined in Chapter A3 can likely be completed by a homeowner with Do-It-Yourself skills." 

Why Retrofit? Here is how the EBB website answers that question: "California has two-thirds of the nation's earthquake risk. Some 2,000 known faults crisscross the state, producing an average of 102 earthquakes a day - more than 37,000 a year. Certain structures that lack adequate bracing and bolting are more vulnerable to earthquake damage. Older houses are often not bolted to their foundations and lack bracing on the wood framed exterior walls enclosing the crawl space. Houses without adequate bolting and bracing are prone to sliding or toppling off their foundation during an earthquake. This type of serious damage can be prevented with proper seismic retrofit of the crawl space." The EBB authority estimates that approximately 1.2 million California homes should be retrofitted. In other words, while no retrofit can guaranty that an earthquake will not cause damage to your home, proper bracing and bolting can reduce the severity and extent of damage.

Reduced Insurance Premiums. In addition to the direct benefits in safety and durability that a seismic retrofit will provide for your home, you will also benefit from substantially lower premiums on earthquake insurance. Each eligible homeowner will have to make his or her own assessment, but a combination of grant moneys, enhanced safety, and cost reductions (if you purchase earthquake insurance) is a pretty attractive arrangement.

I cannot help you with the EBB program grant process. You will have to deal directly with the California Residential Mitigation Program for that. But if you are looking for quality and affordable earthquake insurance that meets your particular needs, please contact me.

Alex Pfeifer
Pfeifer Insurance Brokers
650 762-8070
alex@pfeiferins.com 

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