Engineering Group Gathers Data Post-Earthquake to Reduce Future Risk
Following the devastating Central Mexico earthquake, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute is on the ground gathering information, which it hopes will be used to reduce risk.
As part of its Learning from Earthquakes (LFE) program, a team of seismologists and social scientists from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute is on the ground in Central Mexico trying to make sense of what happened following the September 19 earthquake that toppled numerous buildings and killed more than 350 people.
EERI, an interdisciplinary group of engineers, geoscientists, architects, planners, public officials, and social scientists, established the program back in 1973 to both reduce the loss of life and infrastructure during earthquakes and boost community resilience during these disasters. To achieve this goal, LFE seeks to collect data from its own field reconnaissance as well as its collaborations with other organizations. It then disseminates the main takeaways with professionals ranging from city planners to architects.
“The point of the Learning from Earthquakes program is to collect fragile data before things change—before the ground moves … before things are demolished and removed—and then we use that and share that information about damages and losses with the larger community,” said EERI’s Past-President Mary Comerio.
Although EERI’s data collection will occur in several phases, its first team of seismologists and social scientists is on the ground in Mexico now to look at the country’s earthquake early warning system and how effectively it functioned. But in the months that follow, EERI hopes to send out additional teams, whose research will span a range of topics, including seismicity, geotechnical issues, and damage to buildings with specific functions, such as schools and hospitals.
Still, EERI hopes to gather its data and compose the initial response quickly, since the data is paramount for those seeking to become better prepared in the face of an earthquake. “It has an immediate impact to changes in the building code,” Comerio said. “It has an effect on local governments trying to make decisions about resilience planning and adapting a resilience plan or adopting a retrofit ordinance or a particular ordinance type, or it may push a utility system to make a longer-range plan for their water lines or their power lines.”
According to Comerio, the group is ultimately looking to reduce risk worldwide. “That’s the goal, so we hope that this information about what happens in an earthquake—everything from the seismicity to the damages to the resilience planning—will help people, not only in that locale, but everywhere else, think about and plan for earthquake safety.”
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