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Need for Change [USGS]
NEED FOR CHANGE
Funding for NEHRP has focused on research to increase knowledge about earthquake hazards and on engineering techniques to reduce earthquake losses. The mitigation practices developed through research and development 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 (Appendix A2). There needs to be additional education of people about the risk of earthquake hazards in their region and the employment of steps which can be taken to mitigate these hazards.
NEHRP's research and development programs demonstrate that the cost of seismic safety for protection of life rarely exceeds two percent of the construction cost for well-designed new buildings. However, new construction changes the entire American building inventory by as little as one percent each year. This means that new construction reduces the potential number of casualties, damaged buildings, and corresponding social/economic disruptions caused by earthquakes 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.
The initial NEHRP legislation envisioned the federal role as that of a provider of information. Subsequent amendments to the legislation added the roles of stimulating and promoting risk reduction actions. However, the actual level of such actions as evidenced by the adoption of earthquake resistant building codes by local or state governments has not kept pace with expectations. 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..." These issues are complex and require extensive analysis to ensure that policies have the intended consequences; their resolution will likely require legislation. Some of these issues are currently being addressed by a working group led by the National Economic Council. Others would be addressed by the Program Office envisioned in the new National Earthquake loss reduction Program (NEP).
Besides the four agencies designated by the National Earthquake Reduction Act, a number of other agencies also have a fundamental interest in, and have significantly investigated, earthquake risk reduction. The Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense (Army Corps of Engineers and Navy), 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. The earthquake-related activities of these non-NEHRP agencies have in the past lacked an integrating mechanism.
In November 1993 the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology and a bipartisan group of eight other Representatives signed a letter to the President outlining continuing concern about the Federal government's efforts to reduce the nation's earthquake losses. Their main concerns focused on NEHRP and were basically threefold: 1) a lack of strategic planning; 2) insufficient coordination and implementation of research results; 3) and a lack of emphasis on mitigation. The January 1994 Northridge Earthquake gave a greater sense of urgency and importance to the issue.
To address the need to make NEHRP and our nation's earthquake research effort more effective, Dr. John H. Gibbons, Presidential Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), directed in March 1994 that a study under the auspices of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) be undertaken to review the research and implementation issues related to earthquake hazards. The review examined the performance and effectiveness of the national earthquake program from two perspectives: 1) earthquake research and development (R&D) performed under the sponsorship of the NEHRP, and 2) the implementation of knowledge gained from this R&D in reducing earthquake losses. The review was conducted under the direction of the President's National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and was coordinated with the Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction.
The review activities were conducted by the National Earthquake Strategy Working Group (NESW), with membership drawn from over a dozen federal agencies in addition to the four NEHRP agencies, and was sponsored and chaired by OSTP (participation listed in Appendix B1). An important element of the review was a National Earthquake Strategy Workshop convened by OSTP and held in Washington, D.C., June 6-8, 1994. The workshop included representatives from each of the NESW agencies and a full spectrum of the user community, from architects, earth scientists, earthquake engineers, emergency managers to social scientists, building officials, and facility owners (listed in Appendix B2). The workshop was used to identify the user community's views on priorities and goals for a National Earthquake Loss Reduction Strategy, the level of effort required to meet these goals, and the necessary federal coordination mechanisms.