|Abstract:||In July 2010, in an effort to reduce future catastrophic natural disaster losses for California, the American Red Cross coordinated and sent a delegation of 20 multidisciplinary experts on earthquake response and recovery to Chile. The primary goal was to understand how the Chilean society and relevant organizations responded to the magnitude 8.8 Maule earthquake that struck the region on February 27, 2010, as well as how an application of these lessons could better prepare California communities, response partners and state emergency partners for a comparable situation. Similarities in building codes, socioeconomic conditions, and broad extent of the strong shaking make the Chilean earthquake a very close analog to the impact of future great earthquakes on California. To withstand and recover from natural and human-caused disasters, it is essential for citizens and communities to work together to anticipate threats, limit effects, and rapidly restore functionality after a crisis.
The delegation was hosted by the Chilean Red Cross and received extensive briefings from both national and local Red Cross officials. During nine days in Chile, the delegation also met with officials at the national, regional, and local government levels. Technical briefings were received from the President?s Emergency Committee, emergency managers from ONEMI (comparable to FEMA), structural engineers, a seismologist, hospital administrators, firefighters, and the United Nations team in Chile. Cities visited include Santiago, Talca, Constitucion, Concepcion, Talcahuano, Tumbes, and Cauquenes. The American Red Cross Multidisciplinary Team consisted of subject matter experts, who carried out special investigations in five Teams on the (1) science and engineering findings, (2) medical services, (3) emergency services, (4) volunteer management, and (5) executive and management issues (see appendix A for a full list of participants and their titles and teams). While developing this delegation, it was clear that a multidisciplinary approach was required to properly analyze the emergency response, technical, and social components of this disaster. A diverse and knowledgeable delegation was necessary to analyze the Chilean response in a way that would be beneficial to preparedness in California, as well as improve mitigation efforts around the United States.
By most standards, the Maule earthquake was a catastrophe for Chile. The economic losses totaled $30 billion USD or 17% of the GDP of the country. Twelve million people, or ? of the population of the country, were in areas that felt strong shaking. Yet only 521 fatalities have been confirmed, with 56 people still missing and presumed dead in the tsunami.
The Science and Technology Team evaluated the impacts of the earthquake on built environment with implications for the United States. The fires following the earthquake were minimal in part because of the shutdown of the national electrical grid early in the shaking. Only five engineer-designed buildings were destroyed during the earthquake; however, over 350,000 housing units were destroyed. Chile has a law that holds building owners liable for the first 10 years of a building?s existence for any losses resulting from inadequate application of the building code during construction. This law was cited by many our team met with as a prime reason for the strong performance of the built environment. Overall, this earthquake demonstrated that strict building codes and standards could greatly reduce losses in even the largest earthquakes. In the immediate response to the earthquake and tsunami, first responders, emergency personnel, and search and rescue teams handled many challenges. Loss of communications was significant; many lives were lost and effective coordination to support life-sustaining efforts was gravely impacted due to a lack of inter- and intra-agency coordination.
The Health and Medical Services Team sought to understand the medical disast