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National Research Council vs Local Fire Departments

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The report on the "Loma Prieta Earthquake" symposium sponsored in 1994 by the
National Research Council in cooperation with Geotechnical Board, the Board on
Natural Disasters, and the National Academy of Sciences, makes the following
statements on page 4, under "General Observations", under "Lesson 1":

"....It was apparent from the papers presented at the symposium that the Loma
Prieta earthquake demonstrated that the San Francisco Bay Area has made
progress toward improving the ability to minimize damage and cope with
destructive earthquakes. However, Loma Prieta was a moderately large
earthquake that occurred a significant distance from major population centers;
therefore it was not a rigorous test."

"Recommendations: Rather than creating over-confidence and complacency, the
Loma Prieta earthquake must *serve as a stern warning to residents* of the Bay
Area and other earthquake-prone areas throughout the United States about
future earthquakes, some of which will be larger, shake longer, and be closer
to major population centers". (*...*: emphasis - not existing in the original

An interesting phrase was used in the "Recommendations"-part of the statement:
"... to serve as a stern warning to residents...." 

I am a resident of an earthquake-prone area. I was given a "stern warning that
a larger, longer lasting earthquake" might shake my area. My first question
is: what am I supposed to do with this "stern warning"? The ground pad for my
house was prepared 35 years ago, the house was built 33 years ago... so it
seems that there is not very much I can do now to prepare the house for an
earthquake. Even if I upgrade the house structurally to comply with very
questionable current seismic code requirements there is no guarantee that the
structure will withstand the earthquake. The only thing I can do is to store
food, water and other emergency supplies to last me for 2 weeks or so - if I
am temporarily cut off from the rest of the world. Consequently, the National
Research Council should rephrase the "stern warning" notice to read: "There is
a possibility of future earthquake occurring in your area. Every resident
should be prepared for the earthquake by storing food, water and other
emergency supplies if ground communication between communities is disrupted.
Also, every resident should be emotionally prepared for the event". This
preparedness activity information, however, has been assigned for over 50
years to local fire departments. In effect, the National Research Council, a
scientific organization, is duplicating the work of fire departments. 

The second observation is: If "a destructive earthquake" is expected to hit my
area (or any area) and the insurance policy only partially (up to a certain
maximum) covers structural-only portions of earthquake damages, it seems that
I have a problem that cannot be solved even to the minimum of my satisfaction.
(I do not want to mention here the possibility of loss of life ...). It looks
like sooner or later I will lose a bundle of money for repairing the structure
or I have to abandon the structure if the damage is beyond reasonable repair

If the official position of the National Research Council is to give
meaningless and hypocritical "stern warnings to residents of earthquake-prone
areas about future earthquakes" without any concrete suggestions for
engineering solutions that would, at least, attempt to minimize the damages to
structures, then we live in times when the irresponsibility (with an upper
case "i") on part of the scientific, professional, local, state and federal
governmental organizations is the name of the game the-bureaucracy-directed-
and-top-brass-blessed seismic code writers are horror-dream-playing. 

An interesting (and hopefully, an educational) part of the story is that the
structural engineer as second in command (but still a commanding pilot for one
structure) has parachuted a long time ago (right after the design of the
structure was completed) to safer grounds and will not blink his eye even once
thinking that, to some degree, he is or he will be also responsible for deaths
and the destruction of the structure he has designed. It is not difficult to
figure out why he is also responsible for things that he is not very proud of.