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GEM 12-year anniversary: Bridging science and risk reduction


Mar 26, 2021

“A dozen years is another milestone for GEM, and particularly poignant after over one year of the coronavirus pandemic. We much appreciate the continued support of our sponsors, collaborators and project partners, and the dedication and commitment of our staff to get us to where we are today, and ready to deliver our mandate in the next 12 years.” GEM Secretary General John Schneider on commemorating GEM’s 12-year anniversary.

John added that the availability and access to data, information and tools continue to be fundamental problems in accurately assessing earthquake risk and taking action to reduce risk. “After 12 years, we are proud to have reached a time when GEM can say that harmonized, high quality, open data and open source assessment tools for earthquake hazard and risk are now widely available to the public.”

Paul Henshaw, Director of Technology and Development agrees saying, “By overcoming these various challenges over the years, we can show how the evolution of OpenQuake engine and related toolkits has helped advance the science of risk assessment and support international collaboration to increase risk awareness and encourage risk mitigation activities around the world.”

GEM’s contribution to disaster risk reduction

Beyond the development of tools and databases, GEM’s biggest contribution to disaster risk reduction has been through the completion of the Global Earthquake Hazard and Risk Model through a collaboration with hundreds of local experts and dozens of organizations worldwide. Global maps were completed and released in 2018 and the underlying models were released to the public in 2019 and 2020. GEM also released a global set of earthquake vulnerability and resilience indicators in 2020.

An earthquake risk model is comprised of three components: a hazard model that defines where, how often and how severely earthquakes will strike in the future; an exposure model that describes the elements at risk, particularly buildings/infrastructure and people; and vulnerability curves or models that describe the relationship between shaking intensity and damage or loss to elements at risk. GEM also develops socioeconomic vulnerability and resilience (SVR) indicators that are used to complement physical models of seismic risk. These indicators can be used to better understand drivers of risk and factors that may contribute to or hinder earthquake recovery.

Marco Pagani, GEM Hazard Team Coordinator, explains how GEM’s Global Earthquake Hazard model,completed in 2018, is being used to help improve resilience to earthquakes.

“Overall, this compilation of models provides a summary of the best science currently applied to the assessment of seismic hazard across the world at national and regional levels. Many of the models contained in this collection are already used to update building codes and compute risk at national level. The regulation of building construction through building codes is perhaps the most fundamental mechanism for reducing earthquake risk.”

Vitor Silva, GEM Risk Team Coordinator, says "It took the GEM team many years to put together all the components to build a Global Earthquake Risk model. Now building vulnerability models are available for more than 600 building types, and exposure information covers residential, commercial and industrial buildings worldwide. On our 12th year, we are happy to have made all of this information available publicly to support decision-makers in assessing earthquake risk and devising strategies for effective risk mitigation.

What’s Next

In the next one-three years, GEM will be working to make its models and tools more accessible to the insurance and engineering sectors and DRR community more broadly, and to incorporate secondary perils (landslide, liquefaction, and tsunami) and cascading risks into its models.

For instance, GEM has begun working on a new Risk Explorer tool which aims to make risk information more accessible to downstream users for risk reduction decision making and is integrating its risk models into financial loss models for insurance applications through third party platforms.

Looking ahead to the next dozen years, John explained that “While GEM will continue to focus on the development of models and tools for earthquake risk assessment, and on their application through public and private partnerships at global, regional, national, and local levels, GEM will also evolve and extend its reach through increased collaboration on multi-hazard risk assessment, particularly for climate change risk assessment and adaptation.”

12-year anniversary infographics and media cards

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