March 2007


Elaine Bush: It's All About the "Tone at the Top"!

Elaine Bush

Elaine Bush
Outgoing CEO, California Earthquake Authority


Elaine Bush, Chief Executive Officer of the California Earthquake Authority since September 2002, accepted an appointment this month from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to become Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Mental Health.  In accord with the CEA Governing Board's succession plan, CEA Chief Financial Officer Tim Richison will act as interim CEO while the Board recruits and selects a new CEO.

During Elaine's tenure - the longest of any CEA chief executive - integrity, transparency, and passion for excellence became CEA watchwords.  Her leadership style emphasized collaboration and opportunity, and the results make up an unparalleled record of achievement: 

  • Expanded funding for earthquake engineering and science research, which helped bring new reliability, innovation, and confidence to the CEA's rate structure and product lines.
  • New partnerships with leading academic, civic, government, engineering, and science organizations that built up the world's knowledge base on earthquakes even as it made CEA mitigation and education programs more meaningful for all Californians.
  • New agent-education programs, which lend CEA expertise to those who sell the CEA products to consumers, and new claims-adjuster-education programs, which provide CEA expertise and authority to the claim-adjusting process, making our claim adjusting prompt, fair, and consistent.
  • Unrelenting focus on CEA fundamentals, including significant dialog on the 2008 sunset of the CEA participating insurers' first assessment layer, in a tireless effort to provide all CEA stakeholders a reliably well managed, financially sound organization.
  • A new spirit of collegiality with participating insurers, emphasizing CEA messages and public purpose and direct communication to CEA policyholders.
  • A core dedication to mission and execution, resulting in a well understood system that supports and informs the Governing Board on the policy side, and motivates and empowers CEA staff to innovate, implement, and execute.
  • An awareness that an organization's "tone at the top" is its foremost message to both internal and external audiences, all of whom matter, all of whom are absolutely crucial to an organization's success and reputation. 

Elaine made her spirit and dedication available to the entire CEA organization, she resolutely followed her principles to open the CEA to the world, and working with audiences from Legislators to eminent financial experts to consumer groups, helped bring about CEA contributions that have changed the way people understand and plan to deal with earthquakes. Those core qualities that she brought to and shared with the CEA cannot help but have decisive effects, both inside and outside the organization, as we move into our second decade.

Report:  Governing Board Meets With Two New Members

The March 1st CEA Governing Board meeting showed the depth of knowledge, leadership, and energy State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner will bring to the Board as its two newest members.  Board Chairman J. Clark Kelso (designee of Governor Schwarzenegger) welcomed the two and, as did others, offered warm praise and tributes to the departing Elaine Bush, who was attending her last Board meeting as CEO.

In other meeting business, CFO Tim Richison proposed a 2008 financial structure for the CEA's base and supplemental programs and recounted the extensive research and staff work that led to the staff recommendations.  Tim also offered observations on the upcoming sunset of the first industry assessment layer (or "1st IAL") on December 1, 2008. 

New Board members showed an informed interest in the progression toward financial structures for beyond 2008, shaping up to be the first years in CEA history without the 1st IAL in place.  Tim described the steps CEA staff have planned, taken, and are preparing to recommend to the Board to take into account the new financial configuration, including risk-transfer options and an examination and modeling of optimal finance structures.

Staff also received Board approval for continued enhancement for modeling of the CEA portfolio, to validate the entire CEA modeling effort - the CEA contracts with all three of the world's leading earthquake modelers, AIR, RMS, and EQECAT.  The Board also commended staff of the CEA's mitigation programs for leadership in keeping pace with the need to inform California's multilingual populations about seismic issues, including mitigation, planning, and safety. 

CEA Advisory Panel Vice-Chair Wayne Coulon updated the Board on discussions at the historic November 30th joint meeting of the Board and Panel.  He also announced the resignation of Panel stalwart Alice Gannon (formerly leading actuary and executive of CEA participating insurer USAA), acknowledging her notable, skilled contributions to the CEA.

The March 7th Board agenda and related materials can be viewed on our Web site at

Legislator Meetings Feature New CEA Marketing Package


CEA marketing materials have a new look for 2007, representing yet another step toward cohesive brand identity for the CEA. 

Materials include:

  • a beautifully designed CEA fact sheet and timeline;
  • a booklet, featuring a number of design innovations, that describes the CEA's 2003-2007 Strategic Plan, and the many accomplishments achieved thus far;
  • copies of the fine, new CEA homeowners, renters, mobilehome owners, and condominium owners product brochures;
  • copies of five different editions of the highly popular Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country safety handbook; and
  • a 12-minute DVD featuring an Adobe® Flash presentation of the CEA's history and goals.


CEA Exective Team Brief Legislative Members

With 36 new legislators and new committee members in place, the CEA executive team has been busy conducting briefings for members on the history and status of the CEA.  Briefing materials include an overview of the CEA's financial structure, policyholder portfolio, product enhancements, post-event response preparation, mitigation programs, and consumer and agent education efforts.  So far, members have been impressed with what the CEA has accomplished in its first 10 years of business. 

Putting Down Roots - Now Out in Even More Languages

Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country (PDR), a publication that has attracted the interest of millions of Californians looking for tips on understanding and preparing for earthquakes, is now available in Spanish and several Asian languages.  And in a further innovation, on January 29th a streamlined version of PDR, called Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety, was released - it provides essential earthquake-preparedness information to a number of California's non-English-speaking communities. 

Putting Down Roots

This new release of PDR was assembled by the CEA, Red Cross, PG&E, United States Geological Survey (USGS), New American Media, and Kaiser Health Foundation.  The Asian American Foundation helped enlist media partners for the release, which features text in Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, as well as English, to communicate to all members of bilingual households.  

We' re also quite proud to announce that in February, Putting Down Roots won four communication awards:

  • The USGS's 2006 Shoemaker Award for "the best USGS print product in 2006."  The review panel cited PDR's success in "translating and communicating complex scientific concepts into words and pictures that capture the interest and the imagination of the American public."  CEA's extensive distribution of more than two million copies within six months also received credit for helping educate Bay Area residents about earthquake impacts and motivating many to take positive steps to reduce quake-related damage and injury.
  • PDR received two Blue Pencil awards from the National Association of Government Communicators, for superior public-education communication tools by and for government entities. 
And February's final award came from the Association of Earth Science Editors, which honored PDR with its Outstanding Print Product award.

CEA's Training Outreach Strong for 2007

CEA adjuster and agent training continue in demand as the CEA works to make sure its industry partners will be ready when the next earthquake hits.  In 2006, on-site training attracted 752 adjusters, while 430 additional adjusters took CEA training available through the CEA's Web site.  Early spring is the lull before the tornado, hail, and hurricane seasons, and as a result, CEA's 2007 claim-adjuster training totals are already up to 629 trainees on-site and 129 online.

Putting Down Roots

In 2007, our agent training team is concentrating on in-person training for agents, who deal with consumers and sell CEA products.  In 2006, 1,035 agents were trained (187 in person and 848 online.) In 2007, 78 agents have been trained on-site and 405 online. CEA trainers plan to conduct 25 in-person agent-training sessions this year.   

Feedback from trainees is consistently enthusiastic, and as one agent said, "That was great - I finally understand the CEA product and can confidently sell it to my clients."  We are told that some CEA participating insurers are now taking advantage of the CEA's online course offering, making it mandatory for their agents in 2007. 

Agents earn two continuing education credits towards their California property and casualty license when they take the CEA course, which is accredited by the California Department of Insurance.  

Brand new for the CEA in 2007 is a push to educate consumers directly about earthquake insurance.  This year, CEA will conduct a series of training sessions for condominium owners and homeowners-association management personnel.  Presentations have been made to 150 condominium-related individuals already, and demand is expected to increase through 2007.


Strategic-Planning Contract in the Works

Satee Planning Contract

Using its competitive-procurement process, the CEA has selected The Results Group of Santa Rosa to assist in developing our new Strategic Plan for 2008 - 2012.  In announcing the selection, CEA executive staff noted the current Strategic Plan has been in constant use and has never merely sat on a shelf, gathering dust - it has been an invaluable planning and management tool during its five-year cycle.

The CEA received 13 proposals in response to its Request for Qualifications for Strategic Planning Consulting Services.  A review team of subject-matter experts and CEA staff evaluated, scored, and ranked the proposals.  

Once the contract is finalized, The Results Group will work under the direction of the CEA Governing Board and staff to review, define, develop, and state the CEA's mission, goals, objectives, and strategies for the next five years.


Mitigation Workgroup Convenes

Since 2003, the CEA mitigation team has worked hard to develop meaningful preparedness and mitigation programs for Californians.  Programs included four dynamic mitigation pilot projects to help produce and distribute millions of copies of the Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country safety handbook, and community workshops focused on teaching consumers the importance of preparedness and how to install mitigation products to protect themselves and their families from injury and loss.  The CEA also supported a number of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, including sponsorship of the World Earthquake Conference, and the Oakland Museum of California exhibition Aftershock!: Stories from the Great 1906 Earthquake and Fire.  In planning and implementing these programs CEA built a number of working relationships with other entities that brought valuable talent and energy.

The CEA is now moving forward with plans to add new mitigation programs this year, including a new rebate offer for the purchase of contents mitigation products.  The CEA is also working diligently to identify potential structural retrofit programs that might work under the CEA's organizational structure. 

Now, the CEA Communications, Public Policy & Mitigation (CPPM) team has brought together an exceptional, diverse group of experts to form a new Mitigation Workgroup.  The Workgroup will help develop program recommendations that, with staff guidance and Board approval, will guide CEA Mitigation Programs in the years to come.  The members of the CEA Workgroup are:

  • Dietrich Stroeh, Chair; former designee, CEA Governing Board
  • Kelly Cobeen, Structural Engineer, Cobeen and Associates
  • Rodrigo Garcia, Member, CEA Advisory Panel
  • Jeff Lusk, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA
  • Dr. Allen Martin, Member, CEA Advisory Panel
  • Jeff Paggi, Farmers Insurance Group
  • Chris Wills, California Geological Survey  

The Workgroup held its first meeting in San Francisco on January 22nd, to receive briefings on the history of CEA mitigation efforts and the challenges in developing mitigation programs that both meet CEA obligations and lead to meaningful consumer action.


CEA Governing Board: Upcoming Meetings

  • April 26, 2007
  • June 26, 2007**
  • August 30, 2007
  • October 25, 2007
  • December 13, 2007

Unless otherwise noted, Governing Board meetings take place on Thursdays and begin at 1:00 p.m.  (**Meeting takes place on a Tuesday.)

CEA Advisory Panel: Upcoming Meetings

  • March 29, 2007
  • May 24, 2007
  • July 26, 2007
  • September 27, 2007
  • November 29, 2007
Unless otherwise noted, Advisory Panel meetings are on Thursdays and begin at 10:30 a.m.

Legal Advisory:  As a matter of its standard operating procedure and as part of its general compliance program, the CEA continually confirms that it complies with all applicable laws, regulations, and rulings, including those regarding insurance rating and pricing.  The CEA's use of information obtained from third parties is in compliance with applicable privacy laws and regulations.