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Disaster Risk Reduction: The role of geological survey organizations (GSOs) in understanding risk and informing risk reduction actions

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Apr 11, 2023

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Disaster Risk Reduction: The role of geological survey organizations (GSOs) in understanding risk and informing risk reduction actions


The online forum, divided into three sessions held on February 6th (Enablers), February 13th (Science and Technology) and February 20th (Risk Management Goal), aimed at providing a high-level overview of the role of GSOs in disaster risk reduction, including strategies, awareness of and advocacy on hazards and risks, financial risk management, building codes, and early warning systems.


The virtual event, organized by the World Community of Geological Surveys, NRCan, GEM Foundation and GNS New Zealand, was attended by more than 532 individuals from 97 countries.


Keynote topics included an introduction to GSOs in Disaster Risk Reduction by Sahar Safaie (Sage On Earth Consulting); the Global tsunami early warning program and its cross-jurisdiction approach by Denis Chang Seng (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission); The evolution of earthquake building codes and recommended approaches for advancing building codes by Tunar Onur (Onur Seemann Consulting); and an Overview of the Global Earthquake Model and the lessons learned about partnerships at local, national, regional and global level by John Schneider (GEM Foundation).


John’s presentation focused on GEM’s achievements built upon collaborations and partnerships at different geographic scales:

  • Local - TREQ project to develop capacity for urban earthquake hazard and risk assessment in Quito, Santiago and Cali); 

  • Country - (national seismic risk model for Canada, earthquake risk assessment and retrofit scenarios for Türkiye and earthquake hazard model for the Philippines; 

  • Regional - European seismic hazard and risk model; and 

  • Global - global earthquake hazard and risk model.


John emphasized that these multi-level engagements were guided by GEM principles (openness, credibility, collaboration and public good), and international drivers such as the Sendai Framework Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.


Two questions highlighted the Q&A portion of the GEM session: 1) why aren't risk models used every five years to audit whether progress is being made in risk reduction by measuring and reporting expected economic damages and casualties?, and 2) how might GEM’s exposure database be used in other applications such as for the risk assessments of other hazards or in post-disaster impact assessments?


For the first question, John expressed that it’s an area the GEM ought to be striving to be able to do. He added that over short time periods, it's quite difficult to do and explained that “I think it’s possible to monitor things like changes in building stock, look at earthquakes that are happening historically, and compare over different time scales in different countries”.


John further added, “I think we're getting to a point where this is becoming more possible - not only for earthquakes but also for other hazards - as we evolve our capabilities, as we get better at measuring risk and collecting the data.  We will be able to use modeling tools together with observations to do exactly that in the future”.


For the second question, John answered that GEM’s global exposure database can be used for other perils because it’s hazard agnostic. He explained that the database contains information about the fundamental properties of residential, commercial and industrial buildings, construction practices, economic data and other variables that can be used for exposure modelling for climate change, floods, storms and other natural hazards.


To watch all the presentations and recordings, please visit the American Geosciences Institute YouTube channel.



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