Archives for 2015

School Earthquake Safety Initiative (SESI) 2015 Year-end Update

EERI’s School Earthquake Safety Initiative (SESI) formally launched at the EERI Annual Meeting in 2015 after a year of careful planning. SESI is a global and collaborative network of diverse, expert, and passionate professionals who are committed to creating and sharing knowledge and tools that enable progressive, informed, decision-making around school earthquake safety. SESI’s goal is to leverage our extensive expertise and reputation to conduct regionally-appropriate actions that make a tangible and positive difference in communities around the world, by protecting the lives of all who inhabit school buildings. The initial focus of SESI is on school buildings in the U.S., but the network hopes to expand in future years to have impact internationally.

In its first year of existence, the SESI network of participants has exceeded 100 professionals from a diverse set of disciplinary backgrounds and regional areas—all dedicated to improving school earthquake safety.


An Executive Committee runs SESI with 13 active members, plus 2 ex-officio members. This committee has established an inspiring strategic plan and governing documents which are posted at the SESI website:

Several SESI subcommittees began activities in 2015:

With funding from the Coastal Zone Foundation, the 22-person Tsunami Mitigation of Schools subcommittee has developed a list of schools in CA, OR, WA, HI, AK, and Puerto Rico in the coastal region, mapped these schools alongside inundation and new ASCE tsunami design zones to identify at-risk schools, and is considering next steps for outreach to these schools in 2016, utilizing existing best-practice documents.

The Classroom Education & Outreach subcommittee had a dozen participants begin piloting 4th grade and high school classroom curriculum (involving seismic design challenges with shaking tables) in Berkeley and San Diego, though partnership with EERI student and regional chapters. The subcommittee hopes to expand pilot activities to Stanford and Utah in 2016. The goal of these activities is to use education in the classroom to (1) create on ongoing dialog with parents, teachers and administrators about school earthquake safety, and (2) grow advocates for school earthquake safety.

The Safety Screening, Inventory and Evaluation subcommittee conducted a preliminary review of best practices for school screening in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Alaska, and Missouri and hopes to expand the committee membership in 2016 and consider how to share these best-practice examples.

The Code Updates and Improvements subcommittee discussed various code topics related to schools, including risk categories, seismic design categories, non-structural hazards, code transparency, and school building use as shelters.

SESI also collaborated in 2015 with several FEMA-supported projects yielding great outcomes for school seismic safety. School assessment and screening efforts took place in Fall 2015 for the Kenai Borough School District in Alaska and Thurston County School Districts in Washington (more information from EERI’s Pulse). These projects provided necessary knowledge for school districts to determine which buildings in their portfolio provide an adequate level of safety and which buildings do not. The school districts can use the results to develop mitigation strategies to retrofit or replace the buildings with the highest risk, and prioritize resources.

Various members of SESI are also involved in the three-year ATC 122 project that is developing a guide detailing multi-hazard mitigation strategies and communication best practices. The guide aims to equip school safety advocates and stakeholders, including school administrators, teachers, school emergency managers, and concerned parents, with information and resources to help improve the safety of their schools, and at the same time provide tools for engineers to communicate clearly with these stakeholders and decision makers. SESI hopes to utilize the information in the final document and help with its dissemination upon its completion in 2017.

SESI will also launch a new email announcement system and a webinar series in spring 2016, to keep participants and EERI members more informed about SESI’s progress in advancing and advocating for improved school earthquake safety. Interested EERI members are always welcome to join and participate, so please contact Chair Barry Welliver or EERI Program Manager Heidi Tremayne to express your interest.

Registration Open: EERI 68th Annual Meeting, April 5–8, 2016

The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute will hold its 68th Annual Meeting, April 5–8, 2016, in San Francisco, California.

Registration and full program details are now available on the 2016 Annual Meeting website. With a theme of “Beyond the Epicenter: Expanding Our Risk Perspective,” the meeting program will delve into unanticipated effects, blind spots, and new insights in earthquake engineering.

Sessions planned include:

  • Community Resilience: What Are the Objectives and Outcomes?
  • Using Legal Action to Improve Earthquake Safety
  • Earthquakes & Social Justice: Protecting Vulnerable Populations in the U.S.
  • Moving from ideas to action: public policy for earthquake resilience

Tours will include a Napa Earthquake and Winery field trip, a Geotechnical/Geologic Overview of San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill and Waterfront, a walk focused on downtown San Francisco in earthquake, fire, and recovery, and a boat tour of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.

For full program, logistics, and registration details, visit the 2016 Annual Meeting website.

2015 Shah Family Innovation Prize: Call for Nominations


Do you know a young academic or professional making a difference in reducing global earthquake risk? EERI members are encouraged to nominate candidates from government, private firms, academia, and the international community for the 2015 Shah Family Innovation Prize.

The Shah Family Innovation Prize was created with a substantial gift to the EERI Endowment Fund by the Haresh C. Shah family of Stanford, California. The intent of the prize is to stimulate further creativity and leadership in the earthquake risk mitigation community and EERI.

The selection process recognizes a combination of past accomplishments and future potential, emphasizing creative and innovative thinkers who have demonstrated at early stages in their careers the potential to make major contributions. EERI membership is not required for either the nominator or candidate, although it is strongly encouraged. Candidates must be less than 35 years of age on January 1, 2016.

Submit your nominations for the Shah Innovation Prize online by January 15, 2016 at

For more information about the required nomination package, selection criteria, and past winners, visit

The 2015 Shah Prize Selection Committee: Ellen Rathje, University of Texas-Austin, (Chair); Jack Baker, Stanford University; Stacy Bartoletti, Degenkolb Engineers; Patricia Grossi, Independent Consultant; and Emily So, University of Cambridge.

Northeastern Afghanistan

October 26th, 2015, M 7.5 Earthquake


Comparison of 2005 Kashmir Earthquake and Oct 26, 2015 earthquake data from USGS ShakeMap archives, 2 degree graticule, magenta line is plate boundary. Created 28 Oct 2015 by Charles Scawthorn.

Comparison of 2005 Kashmir Earthquake and Oct 26, 2015 earthquake data from USGS ShakeMap archives, 2 degree graticule, magenta line is plate boundary. Created 28 Oct 2015 by Charles Scawthorn. (Click to enlarge)


EERI Response to M7.5 Earthquake in Hindu Kush mountain range near northern Afghanistan and Pakistan border

On Monday, October 26, 2015, a M7.5 earthquake struck northeastern Afghanistan near the border of Pakistan in the Hindu Kush mountain range. The EERI community extends its sympathy to the victims as rescue and relief work continues.

EERI is currently monitoring the situation from media reports and notes from colleagues in the impacted region as part of its Learning from Earthquakes Program. Local colleagues may be able to produce a report to share information with the EERI membership in the coming weeks.

For current and timely information about the earthquake, including links to the USGS event page, World Housing reports, media reports, and information from colleagues in the region, EERI has created an EERI event page in the LFE archive. This page will be updated regularly as new information becomes available.

Any members with information about earthquake impacts or response should contact Heidi Tremayne, EERI Program Manager.


Call for Volunteers in Washington for Thurston County School Seismic Assessment project

A message from Cale Ash inviting EERI members in the State of Washington to participate in a FEMA-EERI supported study to assess the seismic safety of school buildings in Thurston County, Washington:  

The Resilient Washington State initiative appropriately identified the seismic performance of public K-12 schools as a top priority. As summarized in the Call for Volunteers by John Schelling at WA Emergency Management Division, John has been working to identify ways to make this happen for our state and our students. Recently he was able to gain the support of FEMA and EERI to be able to support volunteer seismic evaluations of three school districts near Olympia. The intent is to illustrate a viable approach for achieving resilient schools that can be replicated statewide with adequate funding appropriated.

This project is similar to the Pilot School Project that SEAW supported in the past but we believe the current project is occurring at an opportune political time in districts adjacent to the State Capitol.

Degenkolb has been working with WA EMD, FEMA, and the local Thurston County school districts on the logistics of conducting site visits, collecting drawings, and reporting on the outcomes. However, we need the volunteer support of our structural and seismic engineering community! Both to assist with the seismic evaluations but also to illustrate that earthquake safety of students is a priority for us and our firms. This project has already received strong media interest so we are well on our way towards the latter!

As leaders of key SEAW Committees and the EERI Washington Chapter, we would like your help in securing volunteers by sharing this opportunity with your membership. We are looking for engineers of all experience levels as we will be forming teams to complete the ASCE 41 Tier 1 Evaluations and will take experience level into account when forming teams.

We will also reach out to St. Martin’s University, Seattle University, and University of Washington structural engineering students to offer them the opportunity to “shadow” some of the evaluation teams as a way to provide mentorship and encourage interest in seismic safety.

To help, please complete the registration form by Friday 10/23.  On the form you can enter your contact information, experience level and indicate available dates.

Note, members of the media interested in this activity, should not fill out the registration form, but instead contact me directly to find out more details about how to cover this assessment project.

Thank you for your consideration,

Cale Ash

Associate Principal

Washington S.E. 44835; California S.E. 5305

Degenkolb Engineers

600 University Street, Suite 720

Seattle, WA. 98101

p: 206.340.8102

Seeking Input and Ideas for a Potential Special Issue of Earthquake Spectra on the 2015 Gorkha, Nepal Earthquake

EERI is considering the publication of a special issue of Earthquake Spectra on the 2015 Gorkha, Nepal Earthquake, pending the acquisition of financial support to produce and publish the issue. After careful deliberation, the Learning from Earthquakes (LFE) Executive Committee and Earthquake Spectra Editorial Board have decided to develop this special earthquake issue in a new way. Instead of an open call for abstracts, an editorial team will be established to develop a comprehensive outline for the issue and then select authors for the chapters. The resulting chapters, with a lead and co-authors, will then undergo the traditional, rigorous blind peer review process, similar to all other Spectra submissions.

Earthquake Spectra special issues on earthquakes are seminal publications summarizing the most important findings and lessons from an event, and should have little or no information gaps or overlaps. With past special issues, there have been concerns that publication came too long after the event and that issues contained incomplete or uneven topical coverage due to the lengthy abstract submission process. This new procedure aims to address these deficiencies while retaining the archival journal stature of publication within Earthquake Spectra.

To avoid missing important topics, research efforts, implementation programs, or studies that can contribute to the thoroughness of the special issue, we are asking all EERI members and colleagues to share contacts and ideas for the issue with the editorial team via a community input form. The editorial team will carefully review your submissions, and follow up on leads or ideas that could influence or supplement the design of the issue. Authors need not be EERI members. EERI is planning a comprehensive special issue and is seeking the best ideas, topics, and authors possible.

Please share your input and ideas for the 2015 Gorkha, Nepal Earthquake Special Issue by completing the community input form.

EERI is also seeking financial sponsorship to facilitate production, publishing, and distribution of the special issue. If sponsorship is not found by January 2016, the special issue will not be produced. Please contact Jay Berger ( to obtain an issue prospectus and discuss how you or your organization can contribute financially to the publication of this needed special issue of Earthquake Spectra.

EERI Response to Chile Earthquake

EERI Earthquake Clearinghouse Data Map for 2015 Illapel, Chile Earthquake

EERI Earthquake Clearinghouse Data Map for 2015 Illapel, Chile Earthquake

As part of its Learning from Earthquakes Program (LFE), the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) is responding to the M8.3 earthquake that struck 46 km west of Illapel, Chile on September 16, 2015. According to initial reports from EERI members in the country, the earthquake shaking and subsequent tsunami alert led to the safe evacuation of more than one million people along the coastline.

On Monday, September 21, EERI’s LFE Executive Committee met to discuss and plan a response to the Chile earthquake. Based on information available, the committee decided on the following actions:

  1. Launch a virtual clearinghouse website to document earthquake impacts and easily share observations with EERI members and other colleagues. The clearinghouse site is now live at
  2. Solicit volunteers (especially students and young professionals in Chile) to participate as clearinghouse curators. These curators will collect information from media sources and expert field teams on particular topic areas or preliminary research areas, then synthesize the results into curated summaries. These summaries can help not only in reporting on topics areas, but may be helpful in identifying new areas of potential research. For this earthquake, clearinghouse curators are expected to create 1–3 posts on their selected topic within approximately one month of the event, depending on the amount of information available and relevant insights to share with the EERI membership. More information is shown at
  3. Coordinate and collaborate with Chilean colleagues for observations from the field, and encourage them to submit reports and data. To support submission of field photos and observations, EERI has launched a custom data map similar to the one used after the 2015 Nepal earthquake. EERI’s reconnaissance tools offer a seamless way for colleagues to submit geolocated photos to the map either from the field or upon their return. The map currently shows several public data layers to inform field team response.
  4. Coordinate with any other international reconnaissance teams headed to the region for observations from the field, and encourage them to submit reports and data.
  5. Encourage colleagues conducting reconnaissance to collaboratively prepare a brief article or report for dissemination in The Pulse of Earthquake Engineering that summarizes their activities and findings.

Other actions may be considered depending on the outcomes of these initial activities.

All members are encouraged to visit the virtual clearinghouse website in the coming weeks to learn more about the earthquake impacts. The How to Contribute page also outlines various ways that members can contribute to the effort.

If you have contacts in Chile, information to share about the earthquake, or knowledge of reconnaissance teams responding, please contact Heidi Tremayne, EERI Program Manager, at

Illapel, Chile

September 16, 2015, M 8.3 Earthquake

For the latest information about this earthquake, visit EERI’s Virtual Clearinghouse Website.

Earthquake Data


EERI Reports

Media Reports


Chile Struck by M8.3 Earthquake on September 16, 2015

usgs_exposure1On September 16, 2015, an M8.3 earthquake struck 54 kilometers west of Illapel, Chile, at 7:54 p.m. A tsunami alert has been issued by Chile’s national emergency agency.

Visit the USGS website for more information.

EERI is currently monitoring the situation from media reports and notes from colleagues in the impacted region as part of its Learning from Earthquakes Program and is considering an EERI response. More information about EERI’s plans will be posted soon, so please check back frequently.

Chile is prone to earthquakes. Recent large events include the Iquique earthquake and tsunami in 2014, and the Maule earthquake in 2010.