Bill would modernize earthquake safety programs

Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate to reauthorize a national program to improve the nation’s earthquake preparedness would modernize programs that help states like Alaska and California prepare for and respond to earthquakes.

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act, introduced in early September, includes provisions calling for enhanced coordination among federal agencies and with state agencies, and completion of a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s earthquake risk reduction progress, as well as remaining areas that require more funding.

The bill, introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Dianne Feinstein, D- Calif., also directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency to implement a grant program to assist states with incorporating earthquakes in their hazard reduction portfolios, and provides clear direction to four federal agencies charged with overseeing NEHRPA to continue working with states and private sector experts on performance-based design features.

“Living in such a seismically active area, we know the dangers we face and the damage and devastation that earthquakes can cause,” Murkowski said.

Reauthorization of this legislation will help reduce those risks, increase preparedness and protect lives by making advanced technologies available in Alaska and around the country, she said.

“When it comes to a catastrophic earthquake, it’s not a matter of if it will occur, it’s a matter of when,” Feinstein said. This legislation will ensure that vital research, assistance to states, and development of early warning systems continue, she said.

The bill is cosponsored by Senators Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Kamala Harris, D- Calif., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

The measure is also supported by the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Association of American State Geologists, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the Geological Society of America, the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations, the National Emergency Management Association, and the Seismological Society of America.