Turnout shows growing concern about potential earthquake damage
The Earthquake Brace + Bolt program (EBB), funded primarily by the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), closed its latest registration last Friday with more than 7,500 California homeowners applying for 2,000 retrofit grants. EBB helps lessen the potential for earthquake damage to qualifying older houses by granting up to $3,000 toward a seismic retrofit.
“A record number of Californians signed up for EBB this year, and that is another indication of the growing awareness in our state of the need to become better prepared for the next damaging earthquake,” said CEA CEO Glenn Pomeroy. “We offer retrofit grants so families can strengthen their older houses, and we provide further financial incentives, such as a 20 percent discount on CEA earthquake insurance premiums for houses that have been properly retrofitted.”
In early March, qualifying homeowners will be selected through a random drawing to either participate in the EBB program or be placed on the waiting list. Wait-listed homeowners may be accepted into the program throughout the year.
The EBB program targets houses that were built before 1979, with an emphasis on pre-1940 houses. All of the target houses have a raised concrete foundation, and some have wood-framed walls in the crawl space under the first floor. A brace-and-bolt seismic retrofit braces the cripple walls and bolts the house to its foundation, to help keep the house from collapsing or from toppling off the foundation.
“We estimate there are over 1.2 million target houses in California’s high-seismic-hazard areas,” said CEA Chief Mitigation Officer and EBB Executive Director Janiele Maffei. “These houses are particularly vulnerable to earthquakes, and we are constantly looking for additional sources of funds to help more Californians make their older houses safer through a code-complaint retrofit.”
EBB is managed by CEA and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services through a joint powers authority and has grown in the past five years from four zip codes to 185 zip codes. To date, EBB has funded more than 4,250 retrofits.
EBB funds come primarily from CEA, the state’s not-for-profit residential insurance provider formed in the wake of the Northridge earthquake in the mid-1990s. In establishing CEA, the Legislature directed that up to five percent of CEA’s investment income be placed into the CEA Earthquake Loss Mitigation Fund. From this fund, CEA will provide $6 million this year to help fund 2,000 or more code-compliant seismic retrofits.
“We are proud that we have been able to help thousands of homeowners so far, and we are excited by the record signup for grants this year,” Pomeroy said. “But with over one million houses needing this type of retrofit—in a state that is home to two-thirds of the nation’s earthquake risk—we also know that we are just getting started,” he said.