GEM Secretary General John Schneider and Physical Risk Engineer Catalina Yepes visited stakeholders in South America from 16-25 October to discuss earthquake risk assessment activities in the region. Meetings were held in Quito, Ecuador; Bogota and Medellin, Colombia; and Santiago, Chile. The stakeholder visits were highlighted by meetings on various earthquake risk assessment topics as well as an earthquake risk workshop in Santiago, Chile. GEM met with regional and national public and private institutions with critical roles in public infrastructure development and disaster risk reduction. A key highlight was a meeting between SURAMERICANA and GEM together with Chile’s insurance regulator SVS (Superintendencia de Valores y Seguros de Chile) to discuss the collaboration between GEM and SURAMERICANA on the use of GEM’s OpenQuake and the development of improved risk models for application to insurance underwriting. The GEM-SURAMERICANA collaboration is important in demonstrating SURAMERICANA’s commitment to developing and using the highest quality data and expertise in its insurance practice in Chile. GEM and SURAMERICANA also discussed progress on its current project to extend the results of the South America Risk Assessment project (SARA). Ongoing work includes improvements to the GEM Taxonomy and inventory data capture tools (IDCT) and development of building vulnerability models from lessons learned from the recent earthquakes in Mexico. In addition to the meetings, CIGIDEN (Centro de Investigación para la Gestión del Riesgo de Desastres) (http://cigiden.cl/en/) and GEM ogranized a workshop on GEM’s OpenQuake engine for the Universidad Catolica de Chile and partners in Santiago, Chile. With the introduction of GEM’s OpenQuake engine and analysis tools for hazard and risk assessments, CIGIDEN plans to continue collaboration activities with GEM. Topics of interest include extending current capabilities into the vulnerability of infrastructure systems, earthquake-triggered tsunami, and social vulnerability & resilience. GEM also met ONEMI (Ministerio del Interior y Seguridad Publica, Chile’s civil protection agency, whose representatives expressed interest in using GEM tools for emergency response planning. In Quito, Ecuador, John and Catalina met officials from Ecuador-Quito Municipality and professors from Universidad Católica to discuss interests in collaborating on OQ training, and the development of an earthquake risk assessment study of Quito. They also participated in a workshop on natural hazard risks as part of the one-year anniversary of the World Habitat III conference held last year in Quito. As a result of this association, GEM is also collaborating with the 100 Resilient Cities Program in Quito. In Bogota, Colombia, John and Catalina discussed current and potential collaborations with the SGC (Colombian Geological Survey) and UNGRD (Colombian National Disaster Unit for Disaster Risk Management). GEM is currently working with the SGC on the development of a new national earthquake hazard model. GEM also plans to work with the SGC on the USAID funded CRAVE project (Collaborative Risk Assessment for Volcanoes and Earthquakes) to develop a probabilistic risk assessment approach for volcanic eruptions that can be incorporated into OQ. GEM, SGC and UNGRD also discussed mutual interests in extending current work to include capacity building workshops on risk assessment and the development of a risk assessment program to assess earthquake risk at the municipal level across Colombia. In Medellin, Colombia, the discussion focused on interest in a case study on multi-hazard urban risk (earthquake, landslides and floods) using GEM tools in collaboration with AMVA (Municipality of Medellin and the Metropolitan region for the Aburra Valley); SIATA (Early Warning System of Medellin and the Aburra Valley); and EAFIT University. GEM also discussed opportunities for risk assessment of critical lifelines from a major earthquake impact with EPM (Empresa de Servicios Püblicos de Colombia), and ISA (Interconexión Eléctrica S.A. E.S.P ISA). EPM is a public company owned by the Municipality of Medellin that provides electricity, gas, water, sanitation and telecommunications services; and ISA is a private company that provides services for electric power transmission, road concessions, telecommunication, and management of real-time systems for Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Panama and Central America. EPM and ISA both expressed interest in working with GEM to develop better understanding of infrastructure system impacts from earthquakes and, in turn, the impacts of major system failures on the communities that depend on their services. In a meeting also in Medellin, GEM met with representatives of the Municipality of Cali (Departamento Administrativo de Planeación Municipal) and earthquake experts from Corporación Osso (http://www.osso.org.co/). OSSO is a non-profit and public benefit organization dedicated to developing methodologies and technologies for earth sciences and disaster prevention. Currently OSSO is using GEM’s tools in a pilot project for a detailed urban risk assessment of a district in Cali. They expressed interest in providing IT support for GEM IDCT tools development, and in working with GEM to develop a comprehensive risk assessment project for Cali. In summary, the SARA project resulted in improved hazard and risk assessment information and analysis capabilities in the Andean countries of South America. The project resulted in collaborations between experts in different countries, between national, sub-national and local governments, and between the public, private and academic sectors. There is now a clear interest across these sectors to improve the resolution and accuracy of risk assessments at national to local scales, and, in particular, to work with GEM and to use OpenQuake to better understand earthquake risk at urban scale. With the success of the stakeholders visits in Colombia, Ecuador and Chile, GEM is now preparing and planning the next steps towards strengthening its partnerships and collaborations on earthquake risk assessment with public, private and academic partners in the coming months.
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