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Press Releases :: April 7, 2011

Subcommittee Reviews Earthquake Risks in the U.S.

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing to examine the state of earthquake risk reduction in the United States and the role of the federal government in preparation for and response to earthquakes. Democratic Members of the subcommittee focused on the importance of critical infrastructure and other lifelines to allow for rapid recovery after an earthquake. They also explored where the United States stands in terms of earthquake preparedness and resiliency compared to other countries that have suffered large-scale earthquakes.

“Our hearts go out to the Japanese people as they continue their work to recover and rebuild from last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. The loss of life and property is a stark reminder of the destruction that can be caused by a large-scale earthquake, even in a country like Japan that is a leader in earthquake preparation and mitigation,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Wu (D-OR).  “This tragedy certainly forces us to take stock of our own vulnerabilities.”

Witnesses and Democratic Members also discussed the important role that the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) has had in improving our understanding of earthquakes and ensuring that affected communities can recover from earthquakes as quickly as possible.  Witnesses and Members stressed the need to reauthorize the NEHRP program to make certain that the significant earthquake-related challenges which remain – including retrofitting existing structures, improving the performance of critical infrastructure, and encouraging the adoption of mitigation measures – are addressed.

“I have no doubt that the progress we have made through NEHRP has enhanced the safety of our communities and will save lives. This good work must continue,” said Ranking Member Wu.  “That is why I have reintroduced the Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act.” 

This week, Ranking Member Wu and other Democratic Members of the Committee introduced the Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2011 (H.R. 1379), which includes a reauthorization of NEHRP.  Identical legislation (H.R. 3820) passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan margin last Congress.  

Since its creation in 1977, NEHRP has been critical to generating knowledge about earthquakes, developing model seismic building codes, and increasing awareness about earthquakes and mitigation strategies among state and local officials and the general public.  The program includes four federal agencies - the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  NSF funds basic research to study earthquakes and earthquake engineering; NIST and FEMA support and facilitate the development and implementation of safer earthquake building practices; and the USGS, in addition to supporting research to improve the understanding of earthquakes, carries out critical seismic monitoring.  NIST is the lead agency for NEHRP, responsible for ensuring coordination among the four agencies.  The current authorization for NEHRP expired in 2009.

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