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By Andrew Edwards
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Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate called for a general tightening of building code standards Friday while speaking before an audience of earthquake experts in Long Beach.
Fugate said he is concerned that if local governments from coast to coast fail to enact tough building standards in pursuit of keeping building costs low, people who may save some money when they buy a home could be stuck with a greater loss in the event of an earthquake or other disaster.
“We have to stop subsidizing risk below the point at which it benefits society,” Fugate said.
Fugate has served as FEMA’s leader since 2009 and previously managed Florida’s emergency management agency. He spoke Friday during the final day of the quadrennial National Earthquake Conference, which took place at Hilton Long Beach. He said prior to his address that building codes need to be continually updated as construction technology improves, and also told his audience that FEMA payouts — the maximum allowable being around $33,000 to individuals — will often not be sufficient to help someone make a complete recovery from a property loss.
In California, earthquake insurance is available from the nonprofit California Earthquake Authority. Its chief executive, Glenn Pomeroy, said in a telephone interview the Legislature created the nonprofit after losses caused by the 1994 Northridge quake left insurers wanting out of the earthquake policy business.
Pomeroy said roughly 10 percent or fewer California homeowners now have earthquake insurance, but new efforts to make earthquake insurance more attractive to homeowners include an offering policies with a broader range of deductibles, increased discounts for people owning retrofitted properties and an online tool to help prospective customers estimate the costs of different insurance options.
“Beginning this year, CEA offers a w ide range of choices, more deductibles to choose from,” Pomeroy said. “Earthquake insurance used to be very rigid.”
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