Learning from Earthquakes Program: 2015 in Review

EERI’s Learning from Earthquakes program had a year of significant activity, innovation, and planning.

Investigating the April 25 Gorkha Earthquake


In early June 2015, EERI sent a 13-member international Learning from Earthquakes (LFE) team to Nepal to conduct reconnaissance following the Mw7.8 Gorkha earthquake on April 25. Working in partnership with Nepal’s National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), and coordinating with nearly 30 other reconnaissance efforts, EERI’s multidisciplinary team examined ten topic areas from seismology and ground motion to building performance and community resilience. Briefing videos from team members may be found at the virtual clearinghouse website for the earthquake: http://www.eqclearinghouse.org/2015-04-25-nepal/ The LFE team report will be published in early 2016 and EERI is currently seeking financial support for a special issue of Earthquake Spectra on the Nepal earthquake. Follow up investigations will also take place in 2016 by the Houser Fellows and a resilience reconnaissance team.

Activity from Afghanistan, Chile, and Napa quakes

EERI coordinated with members in regions impacted by the M7.5 Northeastern Afghanistan Earthquake on October 26, 2015 (https://www.eeri.org/2015/10/afghanistan-earthquake/), and the M8.3 Illapel Chile Earthquake on September 16, 2015 (http://www.eqclearinghouse.org/2015-09-16-chile/). Members from the impacted regions of both earthquakes have submitted reports and observations. Additional member-submitted reports are expected in early 2016 and will be available in the LFE Earthquake Archive (https://www.eeri.org/lfe).

Collapsed barrel stacks leaning on interior column after Napa earthquake

With funding from FEMA, EERI staff members are post-processing and improving an archival data set from the 2014 South Napa Earthquake. ATC/FEMA Building and Nonstructural Components Performance data, Caltrans Bridge Assessment data, and SEAOC Earthquake Performance Evaluation Program data will be included in the final data set to be launched in March 2016, at the virtual clearinghouse website: http://www.eqclearinghouse.org/2014-08-24-south-napa/

Improving and Expanding LFE

In early 2015, EERI hosted two Reconnaissance Training Workshops aimed at better preparing members to conduct reconnaissance and contribute their data after an earthquake in their area. The first workshop was hosted by the UCLA student chapter in January and the second workshop was hosted by the EERI Student Leadership Council during the 2015 Annual Meeting in Boston. Over 100 students and professionals participated in the workshops. Presentations from the workshops can be found at https://www.eeri.org/projects/learning-from-earthquakes-lfe/reconnaissance-training-workshops/

Recent earthquakes led to the refinement and improvement of LFE Operations and Procedures. New volunteer positions of Clearinghouse Curators, Virtual Team Collaborators, and LFE Operational Specialists have been established to actively involve early career members in LFE reconnaissance activities. To make topical curation posts after earthquakes even more informative and timely, LFE has been working with EERI’s Younger Members Committee (YMC) to develop procedures that will allow YMC members to serve regular terms as curators ready to act quickly and glean valuable ephemeral information. More about these roles and procedures can be found at the LFE website: https://www.eeri.org/projects/learning-from-earthquakes-lfe/

A 12-person LFE subcommittee is in the early stages of developing a new program to involve experiential field-based learning in regions of past major earthquakes. This program will launch it’s first pilot study trip in 2017.

Identified LFE priorities activities for 2016 include the following:

1. Dramatically improving LFE websites and reconnaissance tools with financial support from EERI’s Initiatives and Development Committee. These improvements will make the website more user-friendly and informational while also better integrating reconnaissance data and virtual clearinghouses.

2. Securing baseline funding for LFE operations.

3. Identification of best practices in incorporating resilience reconnaissance over time into LFE procedures.

4. Responding to major earthquakes per the recently updated operations procedures.

The LFE Committee is chaired by Ken Elwood (M. EERI, 1994) until April 26, 2016, when Charlie Huyck (M. EERI, 2002) moves from Vice-Chair to the Chair role. Heidi Tremayne is the EERI staff lead for LFE, with support from Maggie Ortiz-Millan who manages LFE’s reconnaissance data collection and visualization activities.