It’s one thing to be convinced that earthquakes are a threat. We face dangers from ground shaking, landslides, liquefaction, tsunamis, and surface rupture. But what can we do about it?
The chapters that follow describe the human response to earthquakes at every level, from the federal government to the individual. Should we purchase earthquake insurance? If so, it might be useful to learn about the problem from an insurance company’s point of view, which means we need to learn about risk. The cost of your insurance may be influenced by the actions you take as a homeowner or renter to make your house more secure against earthquakes. These actions can also save your life or prevent serious injury during an earthquake. How about the safety of the building where you work, or the bridge you must cross on the way to work, or the dam upstream from your home?
The government is involved at all levels—federal, state, and local. Much of the research on earthquakes and on earthquake engineering is funded in the United States by the federal government, and we turn to the federal government for help in a disaster. State and provincial governments are involved in a major way in earthquake hazard reduction, spurred on by the havoc earthquakes have raised in the past. However, Oregon and Washington have not yet made a major financial commitment toward earthquake hazard mitigation, although cities such as Seattle and Bellevue have done so. Building codes and grading ordinances, where they are in effect, give us some security that the structure we live or work in will not collapse during an earthquake, or that the ground on which that structure is built will remain stable during an earthquake. However, builders, developers, and chief executive officers sometimes resist such laws because they increase their cost of doing business.
Finally, what should each of us do to plan against an earthquake?