Leadership Communique: Learning From Earthquakes

Heidi Tremayne photoWith 2022 coming to a close, I’m getting excited about the year ahead—2023 will be the 50th Anniversary of EERI’s Learning From Earthquakes Program (LFE)! As we ramp up planning for this milestone, I want to provide an update on some of LFE’s activities over the last year and how they are laying the groundwork for the future.

Recent Earthquake Response

Two recent earthquakes, a M7.6 in Mexico on September 19, 2022 and a M6.9 in Taiwan on September 18, 2022, have had many LFE volunteers busy! In collaboration with local partners and other US reconnaissance groups, EERI LFE activated the Virtual Earthquake Reconnaissance Team (VERT) to produce two quick in-depth reports about the initial earthquake impacts to both regions. More than 60 authors contributed findings and insights to the resulting reports. Findings from these earthquakes will be featured in webinars in December and January that will provide opportunities to hear directly from those who conducted reconnaissance—stay tuned for announcements.

The 109-page Mexico earthquake report (PDF) describes impacts of this significant earthquake, including several partial and full collapses of non-engineered structures, especially unreinforced masonry construction in the states of Michoacán and Colima. Thanks to our VERT volunteers, including many Mexican colleagues, more impacts were uncovered than immediately apparent from the news coverage of this event. EERI thanks report leader Eduardo Miranda (M.EERI 1987), VERT volunteers, and numerous colleagues from Sociedad Mexicana de Ingeniería Sísmica (SMIS) for their contributions and insights. This cooperation demonstrated the advantages of the recently signed collaborative agreement between EERI and SMIS.

The 101-page Taiwan earthquake report (PDF) also depended on strong collaboration with a local partner—in this case, the National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE) in Taiwan. Together with NCREE partners, EERI LFE volunteers led by Erica Fischer (M.EERI 2010) compiled observations from the impacted region, including geotechnical failures and damage to infrastructure—mainly bridges, railroads, and highways—and damage to older non-ductile structures and non-structural components.

If you find these reports interesting and valuable, and want to add your expertise to future reports, now is a great time to join VERT! VERT is open to all EERI members and offers a great opportunity to grow your own knowledge and to participate in rapid data collection and analysis following major earthquakes worldwide.

Strategic Updates

Of course, LFE is about more than just immediate response. We are always engaged in planning and collaboration work to ensure EERI is ready to respond effectively to future earthquakes and enhance our learning from them throughout the recovery process. To support this preparation, EERI’s Board of Directors made “LFE Alignment & Adjustment: Adapt our vision for EERI’s LFE, aligning and adjusting activities to reflect the changing reconnaissance landscape and the needs of our diverse membership” a critical goal in their 2021-2025 strategic plan (PDF). In pursuit of this goal, we started with a member survey and a workshop at the 12NCEE to explore needs and opportunities for the program so LFE can continue to best serve our members and the broader community. We’ve used insights from this information to inform two efforts currently underway.

First, EERI is working to formalize new collaboration agreements with many peer organizations in the US and abroad. Several of these organizations participated in our recent workshop at the 12NCEE, and the resulting report will help us identify more formal opportunities to align our activities with these partners in 2023.

Second, EERI is implementing a new Program Alignment Plan designed to enhance connections between EERI’s many programs, projects, and initiatives so that the impact of EERI activities is maximized and that there are more opportunities for members to contribute to LFE. For example, while maintaining robust LFE reconnaissance and dissemination activities, the plan calls for strengthening EERI’s advocacy efforts after significant earthquakes leveraging our strong Public Policy & Advocacy Committee and regional chapters.

A key concept of the plan is to define a set of short- and long-term earthquake response activities for a major earthquake that capture lessons learned and respond to EERI member needs. As part of the plan, topic-focused LFE Reconnaissance Advisory Committees are being established to advise on EERI’s reconnaissance response to major earthquakes. These committees will develop a reconnaissance agenda and priorities for their topic with both immediate focus as well as continued focus into the recovery phase. LFE subcommittees on Business Resilience and Public Health are already established and subcommittees on schools and housing are being formed. If you are interested in joining one of these groups, please reach out to EERI staff lead Maggie Ortiz-Millan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be connected with these groups.

LFE Endowment

To ensure the sustainability of LFE’s work, EERI continues to make progress towards our $4M LFE Endowment goal. Thanks to the generous bequest from Clarence Allen and a successful matching campaign at 12NCEE, EERI is more than 65% towards this goal! We continue to be so grateful to the over 250 donors to the LFE endowment Fund. Their generosity ensures that EERI has the resources to support the exciting LFE initiatives. If you’d like to contribute to the LFE Endowment fund, you can make a contribution while renewing your EERI membership.

I continue to be amazed by the dedication of EERI member volunteers who work passionately to contribute to LFE activities. I look forward to seeing these activities grow and flourish in LFE’s 50th year and look forward to sharing more details soon about events being planned to celebrate this major milestone!

Heidi Tremayne
Executive Director