Things We Learned at the State’s Emergency Preparedness Meeting

By Sharon Byrne   |   October 11, 2022

We’ve worked with California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on a number of fronts: homeowner’s insurance (and the lack of it in California), claims, legislation, and preparedness. Last week, he hosted quite the townhall on emergency preparedness, as part of the partnership the Department of Insurance has with the Governor’s emergency response and readiness agencies. We’ve been to a few of these townhalls, mostly focused on fire preparedness, and shared info with the community. This last session was far more informative, so kudos to the Insurance Commissioner for putting it on.

Here’s some of what we learned:

FEMA Presented on Floods and Mudslides

Over 90% of disasters involve some sort of flooding. Just one inch of water can lead to more than $25,000 in damage to your home. Our deepest sympathies right now are extended to people in Puerto Rico, Florida, and South Carolina dealing with flooding from Hurricane Ian. Most insurance policies do NOT cover flooding, however. In our area, floods, landslides, and debris flows are common after a fire.

To purchase flood insurance, call your insurance company or insurance agent, the same person who sells your home or auto insurance. If you need help finding a provider, go to or call the National Flood Insurance Program at (877) 336-2627.

FEMA offers resources to stay informed during an incident. They have a FEMA app you can download to your phone. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) also has an app. We test drove these apps, to find out more about what they offer. You’ll plug in your zip code, and they’ll send alerts if there is any activity in your area. You can also apply for disaster help, check your application, and find an emergency shelter. These would have been handy things to have in the Debris Flow of 2018. California regulations now require cell towers to have emergency power backup systems to prevent cell phone coverage outages such as we experienced in 2018.

What You Always Need in Any Emergency: Key Documents and Information

FEMA offers a nice toolkit – the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit – on their website. It’s a good idea to have one of these pre-filled out. You’ll list things such as your account numbers, tax statements, insurance policies, car titles, and deeds to property if you’re keeping these in your home. These are the things everyone needs, along with passports and birth certificates, in the event of a disaster. Fill yours out and keep it with your Emergency Go-Bag in case you have to quickly evacuate in the event of an incident such as fire or earthquake. Then you’ll have all your key papers with you in those moments.

What About Earthquakes?

There’s a MyShake app for that too. It can send you early earthquake warnings, based on your location. It will show you any earthquakes that have happened nearby and offer you the ability to report experiences of shaking. It can send you alerts too, when a quake occurs near your area.

The California Earthquake Authority offers earthquake insurance, and the FAIR Plan for fire insurance is modeled off of it. There are 1.1 million policyholders, with a $19 billion claim paying capacity. There are also grants available to mitigate potential earthquake damage to your home, so that you can better brace your property for an earthquake. Even better, they have a tool on their website so you can play with variables to your policy and premium, allowing you to tweak your coverage and see how much it will cost. You can do all this at their website: Homes built before 1980 are more vulnerable to quakes because they were built before modern seismic building codes were in place.

This was a really good session, and we’re awfully glad we attended! Our thanks to all the agencies that put this on, and Insurance Commissioner Lara for hosting it. For more info, or to ask questions, email  

Sharon Byrne is the Executive Director of the Montecito Association


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