Which Earthquakes Trigger A Jumpstart Payment?

If you had Jumpstart earthquake insurance 40 years ago, when would you have received a payment? Over the last 40 years, 16 earthquakes would have triggered a Jumpstart payment in California.  In other words, Jumpstart makes payments in about three earthquakes per decade.

Most recently, earthquakes that would have triggered a Jumpstart payment include Napa 2014 (M 6.0), Mexicali 2010 (M 7.2), and Paso Robles 2003 (M 6.5).  Other triggering earthquakes are shown in the map below and listed later in this post.

Map of major California quakes since 1978

What triggers a Jumpstart earthquake insurance payment?

The earthquake payment zone boundary is created by any census block that experiences an earthquake with Peak Ground Velocity (PGV) of 30 centimeters per second (cm/s) or more. This is roughly equivalent to the “red zone” shown on a USGS ShakeMap, which you can see in the standard ShakeMap legend.

USGS shakemap legend
Credit: USGS

In general, an earthquake with a Richter 6.0 magnitude and above will trigger payment.  This is true for shallow earthquakes (depth of fewer than 70km), which is the norm in California.  For deeper earthquakes, it takes a larger Richter magnitude to create a triggering PGV of 30 cm/s.

While most triggering earthquakes are one-time events, earthquake clusters and aftershocks can cause overlapping zones and multiple payments. Let’s look at a unique case from Southern California.

Multiple quakes, overlapping payment zones

In 1992, three triggering earthquakes occurred in the same region with an overlapping payment zone. The Thousand Palms (M 6.1) earthquake occurred in April. The Landers main (M 7.3) and aftershock (M 6.3) earthquakes occurred in June within four hours of each other.

Jumpstart covers up to two triggering events per year, not including aftershocks. Therefore, a customer in the overlapping zone affected by both the Thousand Palms and Landers quakes would have received two $10,000 payments, for a total of $20,000.

How does Jumpstart decide when customers get paid?

The process to determine the payment zone is fully transparent and accessible to the public.  You can follow the same steps as Jumpstart after any earthquake.

Jumpstart uses data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a federal scientific agency and an independent third party, to determine which earthquakes trigger payment.

A USGS ShakeMap is used to establish the payment zone where the PGV is 30 centimeters per second (cm/s) and higher. Turn on the layers “Epicenter” and “ShakeMap PGV Contours.”  Then, observe the PGV 30 contour to see the payment zone. Below is an example ShakeMap for the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

Map of Jumpstart's payout zone over USGS data
Base map source: USGS

Payment-Triggering Earthquakes

The following earthquakes in California would have triggered a Jumpstart payment.

Notable Historical Earthquakes

M 6.7 – Northridge, 1994 (see map of payment zone)
M 6.9 – Loma Prieta, 1989 (see map of payment zone)
M 7.9 – San Francisco, 1906
M 6.8 – Hayward, 1868 (see map of simulated payment zone)
M 7.3 – San Fernando, 1971
M 6.8 – Santa Barbara, 1925
M 6.4 – Long Beach, 1933

Triggering Earthquakes in the last 40 years:

M 7.9 – San Francisco, 1906
M 6.7 – San Jacinto, 1918
M 6.5 – Los Angeles, 1922
M 6.82 – Santa Barbara, 1925
M 6.3 – Monterey Bay, 1926
M 6.9 – Lompoc, 1927
M 6.4 – Eureka, 1932
M 6.4 – Long Beach, 1933
M 6.0 – Coachella, 1937
M 6.9 – El Centro, 1940
M 6.6 – Westmorland, 1942
M 6.3 – Inyokern, 1946
M 6.5 – Fort Irwin, 1947
M 6.0 – Desert Hot Springs, 1948
M 7.5 – Kern County, 1952
M 6.0 – Petrolia, 1952
M 6.2 – Cambria, 1952
M 6.4 – Salton City, 1954
M 6.6 – Eureka, 1954
M 6.6 – Borrego Mountain, 1968
M 6.6 – San Fernando, 1971
M 6.4 – Mexicali, 1979
M 7.2 – Patricks Point, 1980
M 6.7 – Coalinga, 1983
M 6.2 – Morgan Hill, 1984
M 6.0 – Palm Springs, 1986
M 6.4 – Bishop, 1986
M 6.2 and M 6.6 – Westmorland, 1987
M 6.9 – Loma Prieta, 1989
M 6.1 – Thousand Palms, 1992
M 7.2 – Petrolia, 1992
M 7.3 and M 6.3 – Landers, 1992
M 6.7 – Northridge, 1994
M 7.1 – Hector Mine, 1999
M 6.5 – Paso Robles, 2003
M 7.2 – Mexicali, 2010
M 6.02 – Napa, 2014


Have any questions about qualifying quakes or payments? Check out our FAQ page on claims/payment, the details contained in Jumpstart’s policy, or email us at [email protected].

Author: Camille Bhalerao

Camille Bhalerao is a writer and illustrator for Jumpstart Recovery, covering the science of earthquakes. As a Professional Engineer, she has designed marine structures (seawalls, wharves, piers, and bridges) for earthquakes. She is a member of the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California (SEAONC), where she is the marketing director for a new podcast that shares information about structural and earthquake engineering. Her passion for earthquake preparedness manifests in storing water bottles around the house, fangirling USGS, buying earthquake insurance, and sharing information with people at parties (earthquake safety moment: tables are the new door frames!).