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Rapidly Assessing and Quantifying Earthquake Hazard and Impact: Emily K. M. So


Project Title: Rapidly Assessing and Quantifying Earthquake Hazard and Impact
Mendenhall Fellow: Emily K. M. So, (303) 273-8618, eso@usgs.gov
Duty Station: Golden, CO
Start Date: February 22, 2010
Education: Ph.D. (Architecture) University of Cambridge, UK, 2009
Research Advisors: David Wald, (303) 273-8441, wald@usgs.gov

Project Description: The objective of this project is to contribute to ongoing global and U.S. efforts to develop a way to make an estimate of probable earthquake casualty rates very rapidly after an earthquake has taken place. As a discipline, engineers and architects have been able to influence changes in building codes in many parts of the developed world (Spence, 2007) but have struggled to impose a significant impact on developing countries and countries of vast urbanization. The main cause of deaths and injuries is damage and collapses of buildings and only in understanding the associations between the levels of damage and severity and types of injuries can one make headway in deriving realistic estimates of these losses.  Current loss modeling practices, as highlighted in the benchmark study (Spence and others, 2008) fall far short of what is required to reflect what happens in reality.  Hampered by a lack of regional historic data, modelers are limited by what is available in models such as HAZUS (FEMA-NIBS, 2003) for use in their own country with different attributes and building inventory.  The fundamental reasoning behind the commonly used casualty rates are almost lost within models, and one of the aims of this study is dissecting these numbers, making these accountable and realistic.

Past attempts to correlate ground motion, damage and casualties have been hampered by poor or inconsistent ground motion estimates, but using U.S. Geological Survey ShakeMap capability, a more systematic approach will be possible.  Using personal data collected from recent events (So, 2009) and international contacts, as a Mendenhall Research Fellow, I will develop parameters for estimating intensity-related correlations between damage and overall casualties (emphasising deaths and serious/critical injuries) for different seismic regions around the world.  The creation of an algorithm and corresponding parameters for estimating casualties appropriate to large regions of the world, given an initial estimate of the local ground shaking and some knowledge of the population and building inventory, will be attempted.

The methodologies developed under this project will be implemented as part of the PAGER (Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response [http://earthquake.usgs.gov/pager/]) lossPAGER system, in improving the alert system of societal loss estimation, shown in figure 1.  The aim of this research is to complement the methods developed within PAGER (Jaiswal and others, 2009) and provide a method of gauging the number of deaths, injured and displaced following an earthquake.  It is intended to make a significant contribution towards decisionmaking in the areas of emergency response and disaster management in mobilizing medical personnel, supplies, and relief efforts related to their likely types of injuries and exposure immediately after an earthquake.

LossPAGER (under development) page for Chile Earthquake of 2/27/2010

Figure 1. LossPAGER (under development) page for Chile Earthquake of 2/27/2010


References Cited

FEMA-NIBS, 2003, Multi-hazard loss estimation methodology—Earthquake model: Washington D.C., HAZUS®MH technical manual.

Jaiswal, K.S., Wald, D.J., Earle, P.S., Porter, K.A., and Hearne, M.G., 2009, Earthquake casualty models within the USGS Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response (PAGER) System: Proceedings of the 1st International Disaster Casualty Workshop, Cambridge, England. 8 p.

So, E K.M., 2009, The assessment of casualties for earthquake loss estimation: University of Cambridge, UK, Department of Architecture, Ph.D. thesis.

Spence, R., 2007, Saving lives in earthquakes: Successes and failures in seismic protection since 1960: Bulletin of Earthquake Engineering, vol. 5, no. 2, p. 139–251.

Spence, R,. and others, 2008, Earthquake loss estimation and mitigation in Europe: A review of comparison of alternative approaches: 14th World Conference in Earthquake Engineering, December 13-17, 2008, Beijing, China.


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