Appendix A. National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)
Appendix A1. NEHRP History and Accomplishments
In 1977, Congress passed the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act (the Act) which established the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) - a long-term, earthquake risk reduction program. Member agencies in the program 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 agencies included under the 1977 act were mainly those engaged in research and development.
The program brought together concerns and recommendations that had been developing along both legislative and executive tracks: a Congressional track beginning with the devastating 1964 Alaska earthquake and fueled by the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, and an executive track which began during the Ford administration when Vice President Rockefeller formed a commission to identify new technological opportunities for earthquake mitigation. In parallel during the mid-1970's, concern over the implications of the then recently identified Palmdale bulge in southern California led to the formation of the Newmark-Stever Committee by the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The Newmark-Stever Committee was tasked with developing a program to understand and address the seismic hazard in southern California. However, the scope of the program was subsequently broadened to include national earthquake hazards. During the Carter administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was formed. FEMA was recommended by OSTP to coordinate the work of Federal agencies in the program recommended by the Newmark-Stever Committee. Little new funding was to be provided in the recommended program; the intent was for the individual member agencies to seek funding from within their own budget allocation. The National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Act implemented many of the Newmark-Stever Committee recommendations, including designating member agencies, their activities and areas of responsibility, and the funds identified by those agencies as part of NEHRP.
The purpose of NEHRP is to reduce the risks to life and property in the United States from earthquakes through the establishment and maintenance of an effective national earthquake risk reduction program. The Act's aims include improved understanding, characterization, and prediction of hazards and vulnerabilities; improved model building codes and land use practices; reduced risks from earthquakes through post-earthquake investigations and education; development and improvement of design and construction techniques; improved mitigation capacity; and accelerated application of research results. On 16 November 1990, President Bush approved Public Law 101-614, "The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act" which significantly amended the 1977 Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act, refining the descriptions of Agency responsibilities, program goals, and objectives.
As established by the 1977 Act, NEHRP is directly responsible for and has promoted real gains in our understanding and characterization of earthquake hazards, our preparation for earthquakes, and how to mitigate the damage they cause. Much has been accomplished by the NEHRP agencies working both individually, together in cooperative alliances, and with other federal and state agencies, private companies, universities, and regional, voluntary and professional organizations. The program has supported research on:
Contributions from these joint efforts have addressed fundamental questions such as: Where have earthquakes occurred in the past?, Where do they occur now?, Where will they likely occur in the future?, What causes earthquakes to occur in a geographic region?, With what frequency do they recur?, How severe are the physical effects of ground shaking and ground failure expected to be in future earthquakes?, How do buildings and lifelines (such as telecommunications lines, transportation, water, sewage, electric power, gas, and liquid fuel lines) perform in the impacted communities?, and How can individuals and communities be better prepared for future earthquakes?
Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Pays Off with Northridge Earthquake
Investments in preparedness by the City of Los Angeles, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, the California Seismic Safety Commission, the Southern California Earthquake Preparedness Project (SCEPP), the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), NEHRP, and other southern California cities, and private and public emergency response professionals helped reduce the losses that could have occurred from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. NEHRP-supported activities include FEMA's funding of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, NEHRP support of the SCEPP, establishment of the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (NCEER) with funding by NSF, and most recently the establishment of the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) with funding by NSF and USGS. Efforts of the NCEER, SCEPP and SCEC staff and their outreach programs in raising public awareness of earthquake hazards in the Los Angeles area contributed to better preparedness and an increased attention on the very real earthquake risk faced by citizens of southern California. These actions in turn contributed to a more prompt emergency response and organization in reaction to the Northridge earthquake than might otherwise have happened.
Education and Training Programs
Accomplishments of NEHRP-supported activities also include educating and training experts in earthquake engineering and earth sciences. These experts have provided technical leadership that is recognized worldwide. The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute works to transmit the latest technical information into useful and comprehensible information for various audiences that have a role to play in reducing earthquake losses. The Seismic Safety Commission, Office of Emergency Services, and Sunset Magazine, utilizing materials prepared in part through NEHRP-supported activities, have prepared materials for home owners, buyers, and sellers that will enable them to take steps to make their homes less vulnerable to earthquakes. Development of social science knowledge through NEHRP-supported activities has also served as the basis for major improvements in risk communication and education efforts, and will serve as the vehicle for future growth in mitigation activities. In California, for example, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services relies heavily on social science knowledge to advance its risk communication efforts.
NEHRP-Developed Design and Construction Practices and Guidelines
NEHRP contributions have provided:
It is very difficult to estimate losses that do not occur, but an indication of NEHRP's contributions to loss reduction is the low casualty and property loss rate experienced in U.S. cities during earthquakes of comparable size to earthquakes that caused catastrophic losses in foreign locales. For example, two recent U.S. earthquakes in the magnitude range of 6.7 to 7.2 -- Loma Prieta (1989) and Northridge (1994) -- occurred in or near major population areas and caused relatively low casualty losses (fewer than 70 people in each case). The social and economic disruption caused by these events was far less than that experienced in recent earthquakes in many other societies, though it is difficult to compare earthquakes in one cultural and geological setting with those in another.
Major factors in these damage differences are the seismic design and construction practices in the United States, the development of preparedness planning efforts, and increased public awareness. In general, buildings and other structures that had been designed and rehabilitated using information traceable to NEHRP efforts performed well during both the Loma Prieta and the Northridge earthquakes. In addition, emergency response organizations helped to minimize social and economic disruption in these cities. The information provided by NEHRP agencies prior to the event contributed to that effective performance.
As a result of NEHRP and collaborative state and local government and private sector efforts, proven, up-to-date seismic design and construction practices for new and existing buildings are available for risk reduction in all areas of the nation. Many communities are now adopting and enforcing mitigation and preparedness measures along with emergency response measures such as preplanning for recovery from an earthquake disaster.
The Nation's Model Building Codes reflect NEHRP Recommendations
All three national model building codes in the United States incorporate seismic risk criteria based on ground shaking hazard maps prepared through NEHRP agency efforts. The Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA), National Building Code, and the Standard Building Code include codified text of the NEHRP Recommended Provisions for the Development of Seismic Regulations for New Buildings prepared by the Building Seismic Safety Council. Executive Order (E.O.) 12699 "Seismic Safety of Federal and Federally Assisted or Regulated New Building Construction" (Appendix D1) requires design requirements which improve the seismic safety of new federal buildings. It also provides an incentive to state and local governments to adopt and enforce adequate seismic provisions for new buildings so that new federal buildings can be constructed in their jurisdictions in accordance with E.O. 12699. Executive Order (E.O.) 12941, "Seismic Safety of Existing Federally Owned or Leased Buildings," (Appendix D2) signed 1 December 1994, specifies evaluation, and if necessary, mitigation requirements which will improve the seismic safety of existing federal buildings. It requires the adoption and application by federal agencies of the Standards of Seismic Safety for Existing Federally Owned or Leased Buildings. It also requires agencies to inventory their owned and leased buildings and to estimate the costs of mitigating unacceptable seismic risks in these structures within four years. The order also requires FEMA to provide Congress with a report on how to achieve an adequate level of seismic safety in federally owned and leased buildings in an economically feasible manner within six years.
Although NEHRP has had many successes, it also faces many challenges. In the earth sciences, significant advances have been made in understanding earthquake generation and identifying high risk areas, but developing a means of predicting or even forecasting earthquakes has proved to be a much greater challenge than anticipated. In engineering, while great strides have been made in developing building practices and advocating mitigation practices, the implementation of the practices remains voluntary and thus generally very limited.
The Federal government's earthquake risk reduction efforts, carried out primarily under NEHRP, are generally limited to activities and programs that involve the Federal government. Many important earthquake risk reduction measures, such as those that entail land use and building codes, are entirely within the jurisdiction of state and local governments. The way the member agencies' already mature and focused resources were brought together to create NEHRP may have set the tone for an interagency effort which is well coordinated but not well integrated. Although the language in the 1977 Act included a requirement that NEHRP develop mitigation incentives, none of the agencies have addressed this highly controversial, potentially politically charged, subject as thoroughly as intended.
Table 1. Frequent concerns and recommendations expressed in past reviews of NEHRP: "Improving Earthquake Mitigation," Report to Congress, 1/93; "Report of the Advisory Committee of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, 1/93; "An Assessment of Selected User Needs and Recommendations for the NEHRP, 3/94 draft; "The Reauthorization of the Earthquake Hazards Reductions Act," Hearings of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, September 14, 1993; and "Practical Lessons from the Loma Prieta Earthquake," National Research Council, 1994.) This report does not necessarily endorse or concur with all of these; some concerns are not under NEHRP control.
Since NEHRP was created several reviews and assessments have been conducted of the nation's earthquake risk reduction efforts. Appendix A summarizes several more recent and representative reviews. These reviews have identified fundamental areas of weakness together with a number of recommendations to improve the national program. Table 1 provides an abbreviated summary of the most frequently repeated recommendations, criticisms, challenges, and opportunities expressed by these recent NEHRP reviews.
Funding for ImplementationThe amount of funding for the NEHRP agencies has varied during the program's history. In Fiscal Year 1993 (FY 93) NEHRP's $93 million funding was distributed to FEMA (19%), USGS(48%), NSF (31%), and NIST (2%). Almost 80% of this funding is focused on research into earthquake hazards and engineering techniques to reduce earthquake losses. The advances generated by NEHRP-funded research and development have provided the basis for a wide range of measures (such as improved land use and building practices) which, if fully implemented, would substantially reduce future earthquake losses. Recognition of these emerging capabilities has led earthquake experts, informed public officials, and to some extent the general public to call for a greatly expanded effort in implementation. This demand must be balanced against the cost of an expanded implementation effort in the face of limited resources. Implementation of loss-reduction measures to existing constructed facilities would require several orders of magnitude more funds than are currently being expended by the Federal government. Most mitigation practices must be voluntarily adopted by bodies largely outside the control of the federal government. As a consequence, the degree of national earthquake risk reduction envisioned by many has not been achieved, a conclusion consistently voiced by advisory committees, expert witnesses, and assessment panels over the past several years.
Building PracticesThere is a widely held perception that seismic practices for buildings are intended to preserve property and functionality, when the principal purpose of most present building codes is occupant safety by avoiding building collapse or major failure. Earthquake catastrophes resulting in loss of life can generally be avoided for new construction. The cost of seismic safety for protection of life rarely exceeds two percent of the construction cost for well-designed new buildings. The greatest challenge for seismic safety in new building construction is educating the public, government regulators, owners, designers, and builders in seismic safety practices. This accomplished, practices for seismic safety can in many situations be applied at little or no extra cost for design, construction, or operation. However, new construction changes the entire American building inventory by as little as one percent each year. This means that the potential number of casualties, damaged buildings, and corresponding social/economic disruptions caused by earthquakes is reduced by only a very small percentage each year. Furthermore, the normal time required to research a new idea, move it through code acceptance and into widespread practice can be more than a decade. Thus, even over several decades, earthquake loss reduction will be modest in much of the United States despite any great breakthroughs which have or may occur in science and engineering--unless greater attention is given to improving the performance of existing buildings and lifelines. Unfortunately, the cost of retrofitting buildings for seismic safety is commonly more than costs for such measures during new construction. Costs are often of the same order as for functional or cosmetic renovations. A major FEMA-sponsored project is underway to provide a set of technically sound, nationally applicable guidelines for the seismic rehabilitation of buildings that would assist in the development of building codes.
Other Federal AgenciesSubstantial funds to improve building safety, and to conduct research on earthquake hazard reduction, are spent by some non-NEHRP federal agencies. Agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation (Federal Highway Administration), Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission all engage in substantial independent hazard identification and risk reduction programs for their mission-oriented programs, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is active in earthquake process research as part of its Mission to Planet Earth. However, the earthquake-related activities of these non-NEHRP agencies lack an integrating mechanism.
Incentives and the Federal RoleWhat is the appropriate Federal role within the context of the Strategy? The initial NEHRP legislation envisioned the Federal role as that of a provider of information that would lead state and local governments, private concerns, and private citizens to take action in their own self interest. Subsequent amendments to the legislation added the roles of providing stimulation and promotion of risk reduction actions. However the actual level of risk reduction actions such as the adoption of earthquake resistant building codes by local or state governments has not kept pace with expectation for the results of NEHRP. This gap between risk reduction action to date and expectations has led to the recommendation from the Advisory Committee of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program that NEHRP "incorporate a programmatic implementation mechanism that creates strong incentives for the adoption of earthquake risk reduction measures..." The Committee recommended consideration of tax credits, federal matching grants, requirements for risk reduction action as a condition for Federal government support, and disaster insurance. These recommendations raise questions about their impact on Federal revenue, Federal expenditures, and the Federal role with respect to the historical, if not the constitutional prerogatives, of state and local government. These issues are complex and require extensive analysis to assure that policies have the intended consequences; their resolution will likely require legislation. Some of these issues are currently being addressed by the Administration and the Congress as they explore feasible policy options for encouraging the adoption and enforcement of building codes the purchase, and adequacy of catastrophic insurance.
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