Spotlight Sessions (SLP) – Open to All

SLP2-3 Low Probability, High Consequence Events: Lessons Learned from Earthquakes in the U.S. and New Zealand

May 14, 2014

1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Ann Brower

Professor of Economics

Lincoln University, New Zealand

David Johnston

Social Scientist, GNS Science and Director of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research

Massey University, New Zealand

Dr. Thomas Pratt

Research Geophysicist

US Geological Survey, Department of the Interior

James Thompson

Deputy Director

Canterbury Department of Emergency Management

Earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. are rare (low probability) events, but the M5.8 Virginia earthquake in 2011 reminded us that earthquakes can and will occur where least expected. Every earthquake has some consequences and fortunately, the Virginia event was centered far away from any urbanized areas where it could have caused significant damage and injuries. This was not the case for the Canterbury region of New Zealand. The low probability earthquakes that struck in 2010 and 2011 had dire consequences - the M5.5 to M6.3 earthquakes destroyed most of the urban center of Christchurch, with losses totaling 20% of New Zealand’s GDP, killed 185 and injured over 6,000.

This session spotlights the lessons learned in New Zealand.  Experts from there who have both personal and professional roles contending with the immediate and long-term consequences of the Canterbury earthquakes will share their real-life experiences.  Session discussion will put these lessons into a U.S. context, touching on what could happen if the Virginia earthquake occurred closer to an unsuspecting central or eastern U.S. city and how we might become more resilient physically and economically, not just to the hazards posed by local earthquakes, but by earthquakes worldwide.

Learning Objectives:

  1. What worked and didn’t work during the response and recovery phases of a major disaster in an environment very similar to that in many moderate-sized US cities,
  2. What nature can deliver and the potential impacts in a typical, long-lived earthquake sequence,    
  3. Earthquake hazard forecasts regionally and globally.


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