Hazus® estimated annualized earthquake losses for the United States

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Large earthquakes can cause social and economic disruption that can be unprecedented to any given community, and the full recovery from these impacts may or may not always be achievable. In the United States (U.S.), the 1994 M6.7 Northridge earthquake in California remains the third costliest disaster in U.S. history; and it was one of the most expensive disasters for the federal government. Internationally, earthquakes in the last decade alone have claimed tens of thousands of lives and caused hundreds of billions of dollars of economic impact throughout the globe (~90 billion U.S. dollars (USD) from 2008 M7.9 Wenchuan China, ~20 billion USD from 2010 M8.8 Maule earthquake in Chile, ~220 billion USD from 2011 M9.0 Tohoku Japan earthquake, ~25 billion USD from 2011 M6.3 Christchurch New Zealand, and ~22 billion USD from 2016 M7.0 Kumamoto Japan).

Recent earthquakes show a pattern of steadily increasing damages and losses that are primarily due to three key factors: (1) significant growth in earthquake-prone urban areas, (2) vulnerability of the older building stock, including poorly engineered non-ductile concrete buildings, and (3) an increased interdependency in terms of supply and demand for the businesses that operate among different parts of the world. In the United States, earthquake risk continues to grow with increased exposure of population and development even though the earthquake hazard has remained relatively stable except for the regions of induced seismic activity. Understanding the seismic hazard requires studying earthquake characteristics and locales in which they occur, while understanding the risk requires an assessment of the potential damage from earthquake shaking to the built environment and to the welfare of people—especially in high-risk areas.

Estimating the varying degree of earthquake risk throughout the United States is critical for informed decision-making on mitigation policies, priorities, strategies, and funding levels in the public and private sectors. For example, potential losses to new buildings may be reduced by proper land-use planning, applying most current seismic design codes and using new technologies and specialized construction techniques. However, decisions to spend money on any of those solutions require benefit and cost comparison against the perceived risk. Previous versions of the FEMA 366 studies are the only nationally accepted criteria and methodology for comparing seismic risk across regions.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Hazus® estimated annualized earthquake losses for the United States
Series number FEMA P-366
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Federal Emergency Management Agency
Contributing office(s) Geologic Hazards Science Center
Description v, 75 p.