In-Depth: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced this bill to reauthorize the NEHRP program to improve the U.S.’ earthquake preparedness and modernize earthquake-safety programs that help states prepare for and respond to earthquakes:
“When it comes to a catastrophic earthquake, it’s not a matter of if it will occur, it’s a matter of when. I believe it’s important that we recognize this threat and do all we can to plan for the worst. By reauthorizing the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, we will ensure that vital research, assistance to states, and development of early-warning systems continue.”
The Seismological Society of America (SSA) supports the NEHRP’s reauthorization. In a written statement, the SSA’s Board of Directors writes:
“Seventy-five percent of the United States population is exposed to significant risks from earthquakes, and the majority of those risks are concentrated in urban areas. Damage to buildings by earthquakes is estimated at $6.1 billion per year nationwide, but total losses from earthquakes to the economy are estimated to be much larger. NEHRP is the federal government’s coordinated long-term nationwide program to reduce risks to life and property resulting from earthquakes, and to facilitate social, economic and industrial recovery after a major earthquake… NEHRP is essential for coordinating the work of key federal agencies that address earthquake-related issues (FEMA, NIST, NSF and USGS). It focuses the efforts of these agencies on the activities that our nation most needs to improve its earthquake resilience. The NEHRP agencies work in partnership to perform a national service that cannot be duplicated by others, with each agency fulfilling its unique role without overlapping with the roles of its partners. The agencies responsible for NEHRP collaborate extensively with the academic, public, and private sectors to produce critical research and data that directly support improvements to building codes, and community and commercial planning. Without NEHRP as a catalyst, these improvements would likely not be implemented. The agencies also deliver reliable real-time assessment of earthquake activity in the US and worldwide for effective emergency response, and to protect both domestic and global US interests… Reauthorization is critical to the full implementation of NEHRP and the successful translation of research into actions and results that protects the nation from the devastating effects of a major earthquake.”
This bill passed the Senate unanimously with the support of nine cosponsors, including six Democrats and three Republicans, and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. It has the support of the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Association of American State Geologists, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the Geological Society of America, the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations, the National Emergency Management Association, and the American Geophysical Union.
Of Note: Under the NEHRP, four federal agencies have responsibility for long-term earthquake risk reduction: USGS, NSF, FEMA, and the NIST. These agencies assess U.S. earthquake hazards, deliver notifications of seismic events, develop measures to reduce earthquake hazards, and conduct research to help reduce overall U.S. vulnerability to earthquakes. Congressional oversight of the NEHRP program encompasses how well the four agencies coordinate their activities to address the earthquake hazard.
Since its initial authorization in 1977, NEHRP has helped communities prepare for and protect against earthquakes by coordinating earthquake hazard risk reduction efforts at the federal, state, and local levels.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / hepatus)