SoCal contractor reveals lessons learned about earthquake insurance

VALENICA, Calif. (KABC) -- The 7.1 Searles Valley temblor awakens grim memories for a Valencia neighborhood severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Jim Keltner, a masonry contractor, worked to repair numerous houses after the Northridge quake.

Keltner found himself in the epicenter of demand. His business was bombarded with 6,000 calls in the first week. He told Eyewitness News at that time that sorting requests was overwhelming.

"We are trying to figure out whose got insurance and who doesn't. We have talked to a lot of people who are going to have to walk away from their homes because their mortgages are high and they don't have earthquake insurance. So it is pretty grim," said Keltner in 1994.

Today, Keltner says that earthquake insurance has become more expensive but is the only way to recover if you suffer severe damage.

At some homes, he says, the quake exposed faulty construction, and one insurance adjuster misjudged damage at a neighbor's house until a more thorough inspection had been done.

The bill at the Keltner's home was over $300,000 in 1994. One of his neighbor's was $565,000.

The lesson learned in Valencia is that without funds in hand you could face a long wait to get everything fixed. Even 16 years after the quake he was receiving calls for Northridge-related quake repairs.

"It was just an incredible time that we will never forget. Ever," says Keltner.
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