National Earthquake Hazards Reductions Program (5-10-06)
Natural disasters, including earthquakes, cause damage that impacts
communities across the country. The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction
Program (NEHRP) is an example
of a federal program that through broad based participation attempts
to mitigate the effects of earthquakes. Member agencies in NEHRP are
the US Geological Survey (USGS),
the National Science Foundation (NSF),
the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),
and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).
The agencies focus on research and development in areas such as the
science of earthquakes, earthquake performance of buildings and other
structures, societal impacts, and emergency response and recovery.
NEHRP was reauthorized in October of 2004 for five years. Lawmakers
must now grapple with the challenge of funding the program through
four different appropriations bills: Interior, VA/HUD, Homeland Security,
1906 San Francisco Earthquake Conference and Commemoration Held
The Centennial Meeting of the Seismological Society of America, the
8th National Conference on Earthquake Engineering by the Earthquake
Engineering Research Institute, Disaster Resistant California and
the Association of Bay Area Governments' General Assembly (ABAG) met
in a joint conference in San Francisco on the anniversary of the 1906
San Francisco earthquake. The theme of the joint conference was mitigating
disaster in earthquake country. Over 3,000 geoscientists, engineers
and emergency managers attended plenary, technical and policy sessions
as well as field trips and tutorials. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom addressed
the conference in plenary sessions while the Senate Subcommittee on
Disaster Prevention and Prediction held a field hearing in connection
with the conference. The subcommittee chairman, Jim DeMint (R-SC)
and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) focused on seismic risks in the San Francisco
area and how to reduce risks in northern California and elsewhere.
An interim report entitled "When the Big One Strikes Again -
Estimated Losses due to a Repeat of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake"
by Charles A. Kircher, Hope A. Seligson, Jawhar Bouabid and Guy C.
Morrow was summarized and released at the conference. A PDF version
of the report is available on the conference web site. Also available
on the conference web site is a video that discusses what the next
great quake will mean to northern California and what we should do
to prepare now for impending earthquakes.
Conference schedule, report and videos are available at the conference
web site. (5/4/06)
NEHRP Receives Request for NIST Funding
In 2004 President Bush signed the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction
Program (NEHRP) reauthorization (Public
Law 108-360). This legislation reauthorized NEHRP for another
five years and authorized $176.5 million dollars in spending spread
over four agencies (NIST, FEMA, USGS and NSF). As the lead agency,
NIST was eligible to receive $8 million in FY 2004, $10 million in
FY 2005 and $13 million in FY 2006, however, NIST has not received
any funding in these years and the program remains without coordinated
leadership. For FY 2007, the President's request calls for $2 million
for earthquakes, wind hazards, wildfires at the urban interface and
complex systems-multihazard analysis. About 70% of these funds will
be for NEHRP and wind hazards. NIST has recently named a new director,
Jack Hayes, to run the NEHRP program and the four agencies will establish
an advisory committee. In the near future, NIST will put out a request
in the Federal Register for nominations for this committee and also
for comments on revisions to the strategic plan which needs to be
updated for 2006-2010. (2/28/06)
The Benefits of Seismic Monitoring
In January 2006, the National Academies released a report entitled "Improved
Seismic Monitoring, Improved Decision Making, Assessing the Value of
Reduced Uncertainty". The study was commissioned by the U.S. Geological
Survey and the objective was to provide advice about the economic benefits
of seismic monitoring with emphasis on the benefits of implementing
the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS). The report concludes that
investments in monitoring of tens of millions could potentially save
hundreds of millions in future losses.
The full report is available from the National
Academies Press. (2/6/06)
In the mid 1970's, concern over the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and
the Palmdale bulge (seismic zone in southern California) led to the formation
of the Newmark-Stever Committee by the President's Office of Science and Technology
Policy (OSTP). Originally, the committee was to develop a program to understand
and address the seismic hazards in southern California but was later expanded
to include national earthquake hazards. The committee's recommendations were used
to establish the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act, which became Public
Law 95-124 on October 7, 1977. The Act established the National Earthquake
Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) as a long-term, nationwide, earthquake risk
reduction program. It also designated member agencies and their activities and
NEHRP has supported research in several areas including:
science of earthquakes, earthquake performance of buildings and other structures,
earthquake-resistant structural design standards and practices, societal impacts,
emergency response and recovery, regional land use planning; and education programs
for the public. Member agencies in the NEHRP are the United States Geological
Survey (USGS), the National Science Foundation
(NSF), the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA), and the National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST). The main focus of these
agencies under NEHRP has been research and development.
In 1990, Senator
Al Gore (D-TN) introduced a bill to reauthorize the Earthquake Hazards Reduction
Act of 1977. On November 16, 1990, this bill became Public
Law 101-614 and significantly amended NEHRP by refining the agency responsibilities,
program goals, and objectives to include:
- Giving FEMA the primary
responsibility for planning and coordinating NEHRP
- Conducting earthquake
hazard identification and vulnerability analyses
- Developing seismic design
and construction standards
- Developing an earthquake prediction capability
plans for mitigation, preparedness and response activities
fundamental and applied research into the causes and implications of earthquake
- Educating the public about earthquake hazards.
was reauthorized on October 19, 1994 by Public
Law 103-374. This Act authorized $103 million for fiscal year (FY) 1995 and
$106 million for FY 1996. The Act also directed the President to conduct an assessment
of earthquake engineering research and testing facilities in the United States.
The administration, through NSF and NIST, developed the Earthquake Engineering
Research Institute (EERI) to conduct the assessment. EERI made several recommendations
regarding the state of the nation's earthquake engineering testing facilities.
The primary recommendation among these was to develop and implement a comprehensive
plan for upgrading existing earthquake engineering research and testing facilities.
On October 1, 1997, President Clinton signed into law the National Earthquake
Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) authorization bill for Fiscal Years 1998 and
1999. The law contains several new initiatives, including the development of a
real-time seismic hazard warning system, an assessment of seismic monitoring networks,
and a feasibility study for establishing a second emergency personnel training
center on the West Coast. Increased funding levels were authorized for R&D
in earthquake science, engineering, public education, and mitigation.
was again reauthorized in 2000 for two years as Public
Law 106-503. The reauthorization bill established the Network for Earthquake
Engineering Simulation (NEES) and the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS),
a nationwide network of monitors to measure shaking on the ground and in buildings.
The goal of ANSS is to provide real-time earthquake information -- such as location,
magnitude, and effect -- to emergency response personnel, engineers, and geoscientist.
The initiative hopes to reduce loss of life and property by improving our understanding
of earthquake occurrences, fault activity, and solid earth structure; and by providing
information on how structures on different soils respond to earthquakes in order
to improve construction. ANSS was authorized for $170 million over five years
program, but the program has only been funded at only about 10 percent of this
On October 25 2004, President Bush signed the latest reauthorization
of the NEHRP. PL
108-360, which reauthorizes the program for five years, moving
it from the jurisdiction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The bill also authorizes a new National Windstorm Impact Reduction
Program for three years. $900 million would be spent over the next
five years on implementing earthquake hazard reduction measures as
well as funding earthquake research activities such as the Advanced
National Seismic System. Lawmakers must now grapple with the challenge
of funding the program through four different appropriations bills:
Interior, VA/HUD, Homeland Security, and Commerce.
For additional information see the USGS fact sheet The
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program in NEHRPInvesting in a Safer Future
and the Geotimes articles Milestones
in Earthquake Research by Robert M. Hamilton and The
Urban Evolution of U.S. Earthquake Monitoring by Lisa M. Pinsker.
Sources: USGS Earthquake Information website; White House Library website;
FEMA website; National Science and Technology Council Report: Strategy for National
Earthquake Loss Reduction; House Report 105-238; Senate Report 105-59; Seismological
Society of America; House Science Committee press release; Congressional Record.
Contributed by David Millar 2004 AAPG/AGI Fall Semester Intern and
Jenny Fisher, 2006 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern.
Background section includes
material from AGI's Update on NEHRP for
the 108th Congress.
Please send any comments or requests for information to
AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on May 10, 2006.