California is home to about two-thirds of our nation's earthquake risk, with 2,000 known fault lines throughout the state producing approximately 37,000 earthquakes a year, averaging 102 per day, according to the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). The CEA is a nonprofit organization that provides residential earthquake insurance and encourages Californians to reduce their risk of earthquake loss. According to a 2008 study by the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF), there's more than a 99 percent probability that Californians will experience one or more magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquakes in the next 30 years, potentially capable of causing extensive damage and loss of life. It's scary then that only 11.3 percent of homeowners in California have earthquake insurance and just 6.67 percent of businesses carry coverage, says Pete Moraga, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California.
Californians appear determined to remain unprepared for the eventual "Big One." So why is that? It depends on who you talk to, says Moraga. "One reason is that it's been a pretty long time since we've seen a major earthquake in California that has hit close to an urban area." The last was the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake in 1994, hitting Reseda, a Los Angeles neighborhood. When you haven't had an earthquake hit an urban area in a long time, people tend to forget about the scope of devastation and the problems that occur afterwards. "Some people will push away the facts and either ignore them, or rationalize them," says Steve Orma, a San Francisco-based clinical psychiatrist. "They might tell themselves, 'It won't happen to me,' or 'God will protect me.' Or [they] hold a fatalist view of 'Whatever happens, happens -- I have no control over it.' They might also believe that even if an earthquake does hit, they'll be fine, which may or may not be true."