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Nicholas Sitar
Nick Sitar received his undergraduate degree in
Geological Engineering from the University of Windsor in Windsor, Ontario in 1973, and his Ph.D. in Geotechnical Engineering from Stanford University in 1979. After receiving his Ph.D., he spent two years teaching in the Geological Engineering Program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C. He joined the faculty in GeoEngineering at the University of California at Berkeley as an Assistant Professor in 1981 and was promoted to Professor in 1990. He served as the Director of the University of California Earthquake Engineering Research Center from 2002 to 2008. He has received a number of awards for his work, including the Huber Research Prize from ASCE, the Douglas R. Piteau Award from AEG, and the Presidential Young He has been working in the area of natural hazards for most of his career and his professional and research interests in the area range from various aspects of static and seismic slope stability to rainfall initiated debris flows. He has participated in a number of post-disaster investigations including the 1989 Loma Prieta, 1994 Northridge, 1995 Kobe, 1999 Chi-Chi, 2008 Sichuan, and 2010 Chile earthquakes. He has investigated debris flow initiation in 1982 San Francisco Bay Area, 1984 Utah, Nicholas Sitar
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Societal and Infrastructure Resilience: Strategic Planning for Rapid and Organized
Emergency Response, Recovery, and Rebuilding
In order to consider the challenge posed by the workshop organizers it is worth to first review some of the most recent major natural disasters to see what if any lessons can be discerned to assess what, if anything could have been done in anticipation. The events that come to mind is are the great earthquakes and associated tsunamis, hurricanes and typhoons, and massive floods. The one thing they all have in common is that they are created by well known geologic and atmospheric process and as such there is ample evidence in the geologic record for the past occurrence of these events. What is it then that puts large human populations at risk from these events and how do these events The most immediate and most readily apparent difference is the ability to issue warnings and to make preparations in response to the warning. At present, while we can assess the vulnerability of a region to earthquakes, we do not have the ability to predict them. In contrast, hurricanes, typhoons, and floods can be forecasted days ahead. As a result the kind of response planning used to deal with events that can be anticipated in the aggregate, but not specifically predicted, such as earthquakes, effectively differs from the type of preparations that are possible for events that are predictable. Let us consider the most recent large earthquakes such as the Chi-Chi Earthquake of 1999, the M 9.0 Sunda Trench earthquake and tsunami of December 6, 2004; the Wenchuan Earthquake of May 12, 2008, and the most recent M 7.2 earthquake in Haiti and the M 8.8 earthquake in Chile. None of these earthquakes occurred in a zone or location that has not been previously identified as a seismogenic zone, however, there was an enormous difference in the number of casualties and damage to infrastructure. In the case of the Wenchuan and Haiti the recurrence interval of past events was sufficiently large as to imply unrealistically low expectation of vulnerability and the loss of life was the result of a lack of adequate codes to assure seismically safe infrastructure. In the case, of the Sunda Trench earthquake, the enormous loss of life was principally the result of a massive tsunami on a scale that has not been observed for 100’s of years. In contrast, the casualties were relatively low, for the density of population in the affected region in the Chi-Chi Earthquake, and remarkably low in the most recent earthquake in Chile, because modern infrastructure in both countries has been built to a very high standard of earthquake resistance. Thus, it is readily apparent that appropriate building codes when properly implemented are highly effective in this case. In comparison to earthquakes, which can cause severe but highly localized damage, major storms and floods including tsunamis, while predictable, cannot be simply addressed by building codes. The regions affected tend to be extensive and all infrastructure within those regions is at risk. As a result, while adequate warning can be issued, warnings in themselves are not enough if the infrastructure is not designed to avoid the areas of the highest risk and effective means of evacuation are not provided as one of the options. So, in this case, land use and urban planning plays a very important As there are differences in the way the various events occur there are as well important differences that have to be considered in terms of post-event, post-disaster, response. For example, while it is quite readily feasible to built earthquake resistant fire stations, police stations, hospitals and other critical facilities which then can be immediately operational after a major earthquake, inundation by tsunami, floods, or debris flows is best managed by moving the critical resources out of the threatened zone. A direct consequence is that post-earthquakes local jurisdictions can retain full effectiveness, whereas in areas affected by tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons or floods, much of the assistance has to come from the outside as much of the infrastructure is flooded or buried. Recognition of this basic difference is essential to adequate post-event planning. In all of the above, it is important to consider the socio-political and socio-economic landscape. Human society is relatively well adapted to deal with immediate crises or to plan for events that are clearly regular enough in ordinary life. However, the challenge facing our society at every level is how to deal with events that are rare enough that the may occur once or never in an individual’s life time. Thus the workshop needs to consider the broader societal issues while trying to put forth specific ideas that could be adopted by communities and governments in order to provide a more resilient and responsive infrastructure.


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