Strategy for National Earthquake Loss Reduction


It is likely that one or more severely damaging earthquakes will strikethe United States within the next decade. As the 1994 Northridge earthquakeshowed, the cost of earthquake damage to buildings and infrastructure isunacceptably high. The 1995 Kobe, Japan earthquake provided a stark reminderthat earthquakes can be killers, even in countries that have undertakensubstantial earthquake mitigation. But while earthquakes are inevitablenatural hazards, they need not be inevitable disasters. Our nation can reducethe losses of life, casualties, property losses, and social and economicdisruptions from future earthquakes through prudent actions.

Congress recognized this in 1977 with the passage of the Earthquake HazardsReduction Act which established the interagency National Earthquake HazardsReduction Program (NEHRP). NEHRP has been successful in conducting researchto increase knowledge about earthquake hazards and on engineering techniquesto reduce earthquake loss. However, risk reduction actions based on researchresults, such as the adoption of earthquake resistant building codes bystate and local governments, have not kept pace with expectations.

The new National Earthquake loss reduction Program (NEP) is designed tostrengthen and extend NEHRP*. The NEP aims to focus scarce research anddevelopment dollars on the most effective means for saving lives and propertyand limiting the social disruptions from earthquakes, coordinate federalearthquake mitigation research and development and emergency planning ina number of additional agencies beyond those in NEHRP to avoid duplicationand ensure focus on priority goals, and cooperate with the private sectorand with state and local jurisdictions to apply effective mitigation strategiesand measures. Its goals are: Leadership and coordination of the NEP will be conducted by the FederalEmergency Management Agency (FEMA). Coordination through FEMA will ensureboth increased attention to transfer of research results to the user communityand that the research remains focused on goals that can aid mitigation andsave lives and property. The NEP is budget neutral. No redirection of budgetaryauthority between Federal agencies is implied or intended. The non-Federalimplementation of earthquake loss mitigation practices is not a direct fiscalresponsibility of the NEP. However, because most mitigation decisions aremade at the state or local levels of government, or in the private sector,the ultimate success of the NEP largely depends on its effectiveness instimulating the actions of these groups to mitigate earthquake risks.

*The program was designed under the direction of the Officeof Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) by the National Earthquake StrategyWorking Group (NESW) which included representatives of over twenty federalagencies that have a program interest in earthquake loss reduction. Recognizingthat implementation of earthquake loss mitigation occurs primarily at thestate and local level, the NESW held a national forum with engineers, scientists,architects, building officials, social scientists, and emergency managersfrom state and local government, academia, and the private sector to gaintheir views, concerns, and recommendations which are reflected in this report.

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Strategy for National Earthquake Loss Reduction