Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have introduced the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Reauthorization Act S.1768, a bill to reauthorize the national program to improve the nation’s earthquake preparedness, which was last passed by Congress in 2004. NEHRP plays an important role in preparing earthquake-prone communities for seismic events. First created in 1977, NEHRP coordinates federal research to understand and mitigate the impact of earthquakes and is made up of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Science Foundation, and can draw on the expertise of other federal and state agencies.
Through NEHRP, the federal government has engaged in seismic monitoring, mapping, research, testing, engineering and related reference materials for building code development, mitigation, and emergency preparedness. NEHRP has served as the backbone for protecting U.S. citizens, their property and the national economy from the devastating effects of large earthquakes. Although NEHRP is well known for its research programs, it is also the source for hundreds of new technologies, maps, design techniques, and standards that are used by design professionals every day to mitigate risks and save lives, protect property, and reduce adverse economic impacts. NEHRP has helped make both critical infrastructure, like bridges and airports, and other infrastructure like buildings, able to better withstand earthquakes.
Last reauthorized in 2004, the program underwent some of the most significant changes in its history with strong support and contributions from ASCE and others in the earthquake risk reduction community. However, this authorization expired in October of 2009. Since then, despite the best efforts of ASCE and our colleagues, Congress has failed to act to reauthorize the program. The efforts to reauthorize the program has rarely received opposition, but often fell victim to unrelated partisan conflicts and a lack of leadership among Congressional leaders.
As drafted by Senators Feinstein and Murkowski, the legislation would permanently reauthorize NEHRP. Previous versions provided for 5-year authorizations, the last of which was in 2004, meaning the program has been operating without authorization since 2009. Other changes to the program include: emphasizing the continued development of earthquake early warning systems; requiring the production of maps showing active faults and folds, liquefaction susceptibility and other hazards that can be induced by an earthquake; enhancing coordination among federal agencies, and with state agencies; and directs the completion of a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s earthquake risk reduction progress, as well as remaining areas that require more funding.
ASCE, along with others in the earthquake community including 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 worked with Senators Feinstein and Murkowski in drafting the legislation and have endorsed it.
You can help in getting NEHRP reauthorized by contacting your Senators to urge them to lend their support to the NEHRP program.