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NYCEM Study Assesses Possible Earthquake Damage to Metropolitan NY-NJ-CT

book cover map of tri-center area, with shading in the center and a red circle for the epicenter

While natural disasters such as earthquakes cannot be avoided, there are ways to improve safety, minimize loss and injury, and increase public awareness of the risks involved. One of the most effective ways to lessen the impact of natural disasters on people and property is through risk assessment and mitigation – which was the topic of a study to document the scale and extent of damage and disruption caused by a hypothetical earthquake in the NY-NJ-CT region.

MCEER assembled a team of experts to address this problem under the umbrella name NYCEM – The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation. The NYCEM group brought together academic researchers, industry practitioners and government emergency management officials for the first time to address a specific threat facing the Tri-State area. Conducted over a four-year period (1999-2003), the results, documented in the final report, provide a picture of the number of injuries and casualties, damage to critical facilities such as hospitals, police stations, and fire stations, and the amount of debris likely to be generated.

Using different magnitude scenarios, M5, M6, and M7 at a historic epicenter (the M5.2 earthquake that struck New York City in 1884) and different probabilistic scenarios, with 100-, 500- and 2500- year return periods, the researchers described some key findings:

Overall, the researchers determined that given the area’s historic seismicity, population density, and vulnerability of the region’s built environment, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have significant impact on the lives and economy of the Tri-State region.

The final report is available through the NYCEM group’s website.

Key contributors to the NYCEM project and final report include Klaus Jacob, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory; Daniel O’Brien, New York State Emergency Management Office; Bruce Swiren, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Region II; Michael Tantala, Tantala Associates, Consulting Engineers; George Deodatis, Columbia University; Guy Nordenson, Princeton University; Mary Ann Marrocolo, New York City Emergency Management Office; Michael Augustyniak, New Jersey State Police; Jane Stoyle, George Lee and Michel Bruneau, MCEER and Andrea Dargush, formerly of MCEER.

The Bulletin is a free publication offering articles on Center research, cooperative ventures, reports from conferences, educational activities, upcoming events, and reviews of new MCEER publications Spring 2006

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