MCEER earthquake engineer: ‘U.S. not prepared for effects of a major earthquake in a large urban area’

Buffalo, N.Y. — On July 29, Andrew Whittaker, Ph.D., S.E., director of MCEER at the University at Buffalo, will tell Congress that the United States is not prepared for effects of a major earthquake in a large urban area. He will do so during testimony before the Subcommittee on Research and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology at a hearing to review the National Earthquake Hazards reduction Program (NEHRP).

The subcommittee is chaired by Congressman Larry Bucshon, MD, (R-IN) and the committee’s ranking member is Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-IL).

Whittaker will report that the United States is not prepared, in part, because the effects of such an event, both economic and social, will be felt far from its epicenter. “Lifelines are at the core of resilience,” Whittaker explains, “and we do not understand the vulnerability of our lifelines, their interdependencies, and the cascading effects of lifeline failures, regionally and nationally, and so we can neither judge nor characterize our earthquake resilience.”

He will present several specific recommendations for research and development aimed at earthquake preparation and mitigation. He calls this “a multidisciplinary endeavor, requiring contributions from earth scientists and seismologists, geotechnical and structural engineers, social scientists and planners.”

Whittaker’s testimony will point to the 2011 National Research Council report on National Earthquake Resilience, which presented a roadmap for achieving resilience that was constructed around 18 elements. His key recommendations cut across these 18 elements and will include a call for the U.S. Geological Survey to build out and maintain the Advanced National Seismic System and support its maintenance; and for the National Science Foundation to adequately support earthquake engineering research infrastructure and to provide funds to enable researchers to take full advantage of this infrastructure. He will also recommend NEHRP investments in lifelines, tools and technology to harden vulnerable buildings, the development of seismic isolators and dampers to protect high-value components in building and non-building structures, performance-based earthquake engineering for buildings and non-building structures, and funding of technology transfer, including a substantial strengthening of support for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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