A Davis startup composed of University of California physicists, seismologists and disaster forecasters has released its latest product: a comprehensive report on every natural hazard, and some man-made ones, that your home is likely to face.
With its new natural hazards disclosure reports, the OpenHazards Group joins a number of firms supplying similar products to home sellers and the real estate industry in California, where state law requires hazard reporting in home sales.
It's another step into the business world for a firm of academics that has made its mark predicting earthquake damage and trying to stay a step ahead of natural disasters.
Soon to be released, said OpenHazards Group CEO William Graves, is a hurricane damage estimator that will allow homeowners in the hurricane belt to gauge the speed of winds that will hit their homes and the damage that may result. It's a much more precise predictor of damage than the Weather Channel, he said.
"When a storm is on its way, it gets more accurate the closer you get," said Graves, who holds a Ph.D. in physics from UC Berkeley.
OpenHazards' co-founder is John Rundle, a physicist and geologist at UC Davis who specializes in earthquake dynamics. The group formed about two years ago and made its mark providing online reports that allow homeowners to assess their seismic risks and to help make decisions about buying earthquake insurance, Graves said.
A television crew from Japan, where the company is better known, recently spent the day conducting interviews with OpenHazards researchers, he said.
The company's new natural hazard disclosure reports, available at http:// ohgdisclosures.com, cost about $40, less than competitors' products, Graves said. He said customers can get an individualized map showing risks in an easy-to-read format.
"We actually draw a map around your house and show you where the zones are," he said. "It makes it a lot easier to visualize."
On a sample map, a home in central Davis looks safe from fires, earthquakes and flooding indicated by different colored lines but is surrounded by polka dots that show a dam-inundation area. Much of Davis could be subject to flooding if the Monticello Dam holding back Lake Berryessa ever bursts.
Airport traffic and Mello-Roos taxes are among the man-made hazards detailed in the reports.
Currently the reports are available only for Yolo County, where the group started scanning county databases close to home, and for San Francisco, but Sacramento is next on the list, Graves said.
Other free and fee-based tools, including a natural disaster blog with simulation videos, are available at www.openhazards.com.