Posts tagged Earthquake mitigation

QuakeSmart – Mitigation Works for Business

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) newest publication, FEMA P-811, contains a mitigation toolkit for businesses. image

From their introductory page, “Actionable and scalable guidance and tools to the private sector, its owners, managers, and employees about the importance of earthquake mitigation and the simple things they can do to reduce the potential of earthquake damages, injuries, and financial losses.”

The QuakeSmart website includes documents, videos, and artwork.  Some prominent chapter headings:

  • How Earthquakes Affect Businesses
  • How QuakeSmart Can Help
  • Step 1: Identify Your Risk
  • Step 2: Make a Plan
  • Step 3: Take Action

There are three videos including, Mitigation Works for Business.

Mike Conway (24 December 2011)

Day 2 – Post-Earthquake Safety Evaluation of Buildings

day2 FEMA training in Somerton, AZ, today focused on ATC-20; evaluating building safety/integrity following an earthquake.  Chiefly we reviewed the ATC-20 form and engaged in discussion on how to recognize building type – i.e., material (wood, steel, concrete, unreinforced masonry) — and how to recognize potential structural and non-structural hazards. We were then presented with a suite of slides of damaged buildings and using the ATC-20 posting system — green – inspected and safe for occupation; yellow – safe for limited entry; red – unsafe, no egress – made selections based on ATC-20 criteria regarding building safety.

Mike Griffin also introduced the electronic version of Rapid Observation of Vulnerability and Estimation of Risk (ROVER), which uses Windows mobile smartphone to gather and transfer data.  The open source software remains in development stage but FEMA plans to release it later in 2011.

Mike Conway (11 August 2011)

Real-Time Seismograms in the Western U.S.

Real-time seismograms are the newest innovation in the USGS stable of online seismic resources.  Currently, they display seismograms from two seismic arrays: the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program – with seismometers in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii and the Aleutian Islands; and California – from Riverside north to Crescent City at the California-Oregon border.

Selecting one of the redbox station symbols causes a seismogram displaying the past 24-hours of activity to pop-up.   Also offered is a 15-day archive of seismograms for each station.  An included page, About the Seismograms” offers a primer on how to read a seismogram.

This is really a marvelous tool for following seismic activity in the western U.S. and parts of the east Pacific Basin.  But be forewarned, this tool is new and they are still populating the site, meaning

Real-time seismogram pop-up.

that some stations do not display data yet.

USGS Real Time Seismograms –

Mike Conway (18 June 2011)

A 3-D model of the Salton Trough, California

The San Andreas fault of the Salton Trough of southeastern California presents a considerable hazard to residents of southern California.  A consortium comprising the US Geological Survey, Cal Tech, Virginia Tech and Earthscope recently formed to construct a 3-D geo-seismological structural

Block Diagram of the Salton Trough (USGS)

model of the Salton Trough crust (see block diagram of Salton Trough).  Using deep boreholes (see shothole diagram), researchers will detonate explosives at depth – simulating a 1 -2 M earthquake – and record the resulting seismic wave response with an array of portable seismometers.  The result: a 3-D picture of the Salton Trough and a better understanding of the response of sediments in that deep basin to earthquakes.

With this in hand, researchers can formulate an integrated model of fault (earthquake) behavior.  This should inform earthquake hazard strategies and reduce mortality and civil disruption during the inevitable large magnitude (7-8 M) earthquakes that occur on the San Andreas fault system.

Mike Conway (12 June 2011)

Citizen Scientists Monitoring Earthquakes in Southern California

In southern California, the US Geological Survey is building an innovative Citizen Scientist program to enhance existing seismic networks.   The NetQuakes program has already distributed 1600 Swiss-build, bread-box size seismometers to residents in southern California.  The inexpensive devices – they cost several thousand dollars –  measure ground acceleration in three directions: north-south, east-west, and up-down.  Captured seismic events (i.e., earthquakes) are then send via internet to USGS offices for analysis.

Citizen scientist participants bolt the devices to their garage or ground floor.  And if something goes wrong with the seismometer, they mail it back to the USGS for a working model; hence the nickname of the device, Netflix seismometer.

NetFlix seismometer - about the size of a loaf of bread.

These inexpensive and easily distributed seismometers may play a role in USGS efforts to establish early-warning seismic alerts in the Western U.S.

To learn more, listen to NPR’s 3-minute broadcast of the story from 10 May; or visit the USGS NetQuakes website.

Mike Conway  11 May 2011

Lessons Learned from Japan’s 9.0 M Earthquake

Chris Scholtz, seismologist with Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, waxes philosophical

Chris Scholtz deliberating on the Great Japanese Earthquake of 2011

about lessons learned from Japan’s 9.0 M earthquake near Sendai.   Check out this excellent video from State of the Planet: Lessons from the Japan Earthquake.

It turns out that hazard mapping, which drew on 300 years of historical records, did not serve as well as expected.  In A.D. 869, an earthquake sent a tsunami miles inland – a prequel to this year’s major event. And it was not the first time either.  But ancient events (ancient for historical purposes), were not included in the hazard analysis, which relied on recent and better documented events.

The moral of the story:   don’t eschew tales or legends of catastrophic events simply because they don’t reconcile with  recent events.

Video length – 5:52 minutes.

Mike Conway, 18 April 2011

Natl. Earthquake Managers – Day 2

Dr. Sandra Knight, FEMA

Among today’s highlights, Dr. Sandra Knight, FEMA’s Deputy Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administrator for Mitigation, addressed the group.  She started off by showcasing statistics of recent earthquakes – the dead, missing, event magnitude, cost, her point: earthquakes are among the most destructive and costly of natural hazards.

And she pointed out that natural hazards do not discriminate.  They strike the rich, the poor, developed and developing nations, rural and urban areas – a true equal opportunity calamity.

Knight who has a background in engineering and more than 20-years with the Army Corps of Engineers, asked the state earthquake managers, “What can I do for you”.   She perceives her role is as an advocate or champion for the nation’s earthquake managers.   And thus she aggressively pitches NEHRP to her fellow administrators at FEMA.

She stressed efficiency of scales, combining natural hazard mitigation and outreach efforts, the power of partnerships, and the importance of rubbing two nickels together.  And she pointed out that the time of doing more with less has passed; resources are too tight, budgets are crumbling and our single best hope is to build working partnerships that permit sharing the load.  She challenged us all to identify priorities – “what keeps you up at night” – and stick to them.

In her final statement she praised the earthquake managers for their successes and accomplishments.  It was a pretty good talk and she eschewed powerpoint slides altogether.  Bravo!

Mike Conway, 6 April 2011

Day 1 – Natl. Earthquake Program Managers Meeting

At 8:00 a.m. today, it was overcast and raining in Boise, Idaho.  The National Earthquake Program Manager’s meeting got to off to a great start, nonetheless.

Ed Laatsch (FEMA) at Natl. EQ Manager's meeting 5 April

David Applegate (USGS) and Ed Laatsch (FEMA) presented an update on NEHRP (National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program).   Among the issues raised in their joint presentation:

  • NEHRP is one of FEMA’s oldest programs at 34-years old;
  • The Japanese earthquake/tsunami is causing some to rethink proposed cuts to NEHRP funding;
  • Proposed budget cuts remain real and gathering threat to earthquake preparedness & mitigation;
  • All of us – federal, state, and county hazard crews – need to continue to broadcast and built on our successes.
  • FEMA’s contribution to building code improvements making U.S. safer;
  • Training, training, training – one avenue is FEMA’s Natl Earthquake Technical Assistance Program (NETAP)
  • Both FEMA and USGS continue to support building partnerships to enlarge pool of stakeholders.

It was a fine presentation and there were no shortage of questions at the end.  A particular intriguing question, and one that seemed particularly relevant in Boise, which resides near several faults capable of producing moderate-sized earthquakes, involved the massive damage at Christchurch:

What lessons can we learn from the Christchurch event of February 2011, where a modest 6.3 M earthquake caused so much destruction?

The answer, of course, is neither simple nor straight-forward.

Michael Mahoney followed the NEHRP presentation with a powerpoint presentation “Issues from Christchurch and Japan”.  This answered some questions and raised others.  Liquefaction played a central damaging role despite the short duration of the event – shaking lasted only 7 seconds; compare that with minutes of shaking for the Great Tohoku earthquake. Some newer, well-engineered buildings were irreparably damaged as one end of the building subsided in the wake of uneven settling.  As usual URM’s – unreinforced masonry structures – were particularly prone to damage.  The Christchurch business district remains cordoned off as civil authorities evaluate the damage done.

As far as we have come in earthquake preparedness and mitigation, it’s clear we have further to go.

Mike Conway, 5 April 2011

U.S. Earthquake Resilience Needs Strengthening

According to the National Academy of Sciences that title characterizes the state of U.S. resilience in the face of a major earthquake.  Following on the heels of the recent 9.0 M earthquake in Japan, the news is a little unsettling, if not unexpected.

The 244-page Academy report, National Earthquake Resilience: Research, Implementation, and Outreach, spells out in detail a 20-year plan for strengthening U.S. resilience.  The plan includes 18-tasks, reprinted below from their news release.  The section titled, “What does an earthquake-resilient community look like? “ (p. 24) seems particularly worthy of review.

Moving forward along the Academy’s 20-year road map requires the collective will to surmount formidable political and budgetary obstacles.  But lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and the Japanese experience should sufficiently motivate the scientific and civic communities to join forces to increase earthquake safety and preparedness in the U.S.

1. Undertake additional research to improve understanding of earthquake phenomena and to increase earthquake-prediction capabilities.

2. Deploy the remaining 75 percent of the Advanced National Seismic System, which provides magnitude and location alerts within a few minutes after an earthquake as well as the basic data for many of the road map tasks.

3. Evaluate, test, and deploy earthquake early-warning systems.

4. Complete coverage of national and urban seismic hazard maps to identify at-risk areas.

5. Develop and implement earthquake forecasting to provide communities with information on how seismic hazards change with time.

6. Develop scenarios that integrate earth science, engineering, and social science information so that communities can visualize earthquake and tsunami impacts and mitigate potential effects.

7. Integrate science, engineering, and social science information in an advanced GIS-based platform to improve earthquake risk assessment and loss estimation.

8. Model expected and improvised emergency response and recovery activities and outcomes to improve pre-disaster mitigation and preparedness.

9. Capture, disseminate, and create a repository of the critical information that describes the geological, structural, institutional, and socio-economic impacts and disaster response after earthquakes occur.

10. Support social sciences research to evaluate mitigation and recovery.

11. Establish an observatory network to measure, monitor, and model the disaster vulnerability and resilience of communities.

12.   Integrate the knowledge gained from many of the tasks to enable accurate simulations of fault rupture, seismic wave propagation through bedrock, and soil-structure interaction to understand the response of buildings and other structures to shaking and compute reliable estimates of financial loss, business interruption, and casualties.

13.  Develop new techniques for evaluating and retrofitting existing buildings to better withstand earthquakes.

14. Enhance performance-based engineering to achieve better building design and enable improved codes and standards for buildings and other structures.

15.  Review and update standards so that critical “lifeline” infrastructure — such as electricity, highways, and water supply — can function following an earthquake.

16. Develop and deploy the next generation of “green” high-performance construction materials and components for use in buildings’ seismic framing systems.

17. Encourage and coordinate technology transfer between the NEHRP and the private sector.

18.  Initiate earthquake resiliency pilot projects in local communities to improve awareness, reduce risk, and enhance emergency preparedness and recovery capacity.

National Academy of Sciences News Release

National Earthquake Resilience: Research, Implementation, and Outreach – 244 p. report

Mike Conway, 1 April 2011

USGS ~ Earthquake-Tectonic Web Resources

Earthquakes are front and center in the global news arena; an M 9.0 event accompanied by tsunami and horrific cascading events will do that.  The US Geological Survey has done a marvelous job of showcasing web resources that inform and educate the public to the nature of earthquakes, the Earth’s interior, and the role of plate tectonics.  USGS Earthquake Hazards Program

For a crash course in the phenomena of seismicity, there is no better place to start.

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