Learning from Earthquakes (LFE)

In 1973, EERI formally initiated the Learning from Earthquakes (LFE) Program. This program, which has been funded in large part by the U.S. National Science Foundation, sends out multi-disciplinary teams of researchers (e.g., earth scientists, engineers, social scientists) into the field to investigate and to learn from the damaging effects of earthquakes. The reconnaissance team makes a rapid, general damage survey of the affected area, documents initial important observations from the particular earthquake, and assesses the need for follow-up areas of research. These teams are supported by a range of agencies, organizations, and EERI subscribing member firms. Other recent partners that have supported EERI’s LFE program include the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR) of the World Bank, which has support teams to damaging earthquakes in developing countries. The LFE program is managed by an EERI committee, currently chaired by Charles Huyck, ImageCat Inc.

The ability to make observations rapidly and precisely following a disaster has long been recognized as critical to managing emergency response activities in the short term and improving the understanding of natural hazards in the long term. Participating in earthquake reconnaissance is a vivid reminder of why we are actively engaged in earthquake engineering and risk management. The collected data are compiled into earthquake reports, which are in our LFE Reconnaissance Archive. Such reports are a valuable source of information for current and future researchers.

EERI and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) share responsibility under a recently completed federal post-earthquake investigation plan to manage reconnaissance efforts in the United States; EERI has primary responsibility in international earthquakes. Typically, management includes coordinating all field investigators.

On average, a reconnaissance team is deployed within several days of a disaster and the reconnaissance efforts lasts one to two weeks. On a daily basis, trips are made into the damaged region and nightly debriefings are planned for the team members to discuss their findings. EERI has found that it is crucial to set up a clearinghouse, a common place where the various investigators can report and get status updates of the overall field investigation and the whereabouts of team members. In its simplest form, the clearinghouse is a physical location where the team members will meet at predetermined times and exchange information they have gathered in the field. At the end of the reconnaissance process, the EERI team members and collaborators lead the effort to identify further research needs and document the impacts of the earthquake. After recent earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and Japan, EERI organized research needs workshops for NSF researchers to identify pressing research needs emerging from these events.

More information on the Learning from Earthquakes (LFE) program:

LFE Committee Charge and Organization (PDF document, approved January 4, 2016)

Protocols for Operations of the LFE Program (PDF document, approved December 8, 2015)

LFE 2016 Strategic Priorities and Action Plan (PDF document, approved January 4, 2016)