Sobering New Study Spotlights Estimated Losses from Rising Earthquake Risk

U.S. map showing annualized earthquake loss ratios (2023)

In April, FEMA and the U.S. Geological Survey published an updated version of Hazus Estimated Annualized Earthquake Losses for the United States. This report reveals that earthquake risk—the exposure of people, the built environment, and the economy to earthquake hazards—is significantly higher than in the past, and it continues to rise.

The report provides criteria and methodology for comparing seismic risk across regions. By looking at what is located in earthquake hazard areas and assessing the potential damage from earthquakes, the new study is able to estimate annualized losses, both nationwide and state-by-state. The results ought to draw serious attention to the need for greater investment in seismic mitigation and strong building codes to ensure that every community’s building stock and infrastructure remain safe and functional when earthquakes strike. The cost of doing too little is very high indeed.

2023 NEPM Meeting in Portland, OR

Maximilian Dixon (center) receives award.
This year’s Cecil Whaley Award was presented to Maximilian Dixon (center), who is the Hazards and Outreach Program Supervisor at Washington state’s Emergency Management Division. This national leadership award is given to one earthquake program manager annually in recognition of the recipient’s work, dedication, and contributions to the field.

CREW and the Oregon Department of Emergency Management co-hosted the 2023 National Earthquake Program Managers Meeting (NEPM) in Portland in March. This annual event is an opportunity for all state and federal earthquake program managers, their colleagues, supporting organizations, and consortia partners to confer, share concepts and plans, build professional relationships, and learn about new tools, resources, and programs.

The 2023 NEPM meeting kicked off with a special session on building inventories, a critical first step toward seismic mitigation of potentially dangerous structures. The session featured case studies and discussion about best practices as well as challenges of collecting data.

In addition to presentations and discussion sessions within the conference setting, the meeting included a field trip with guest speakers to explore seismic resilience issues within the context of specific settings in the city of Portland, including mitigation of geological hazards at an underground Tri-Met Max station and recently built structures at the Oregon Zoo, as well as discussion of seismic construction and retrofitting of important community buildings including libraries, which can play an important role in both community preparedness and recovery after a disaster.