MCEER SLC Student Guidebook 

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NSF-Sponsored Research



Community earthquake resilience is defined as the ability of social units (e.g., organizations, communities) to mitigate hazards, contain the effects of disasters when they occur, carry out recovery activities in ways that minimize social disruption, and mitigate the effects of future earthquakes. The objectives of enhancing earthquake resilience are to minimize loss of life, injuries, and other economic losses; in short, to minimize any reduction in quality of life due to earthquakes.


Accomplishing MCEER's Vision - Focus on Critical Facilities


In order for MCEER to accomplish its mission of enhancing the seismic resiliency of communities, it must focus on improving the resilience of facilities and organizations whose functions are essential for community well-being in the aftermath of earthquake disasters. These critical facilities include water and power lifelines, acute-care hospitals, and organizations that have the responsibility for emergency management at the local community level.

NSF-funded research has shown that residents of high-risk communities assign great importance to these particular infrastructure elements, ranking water pipelines, major hospitals, and electrical power systems as the three most important elements in the built environment that they believe must remain operational in the event of a major earthquake.  Survey respondents also expressed a greater willingness to pay for seismic upgrading of hospitals and other public safety buildings and for utility and transportation lifelines than they did for other types of structures.


Research Challenge


The research challenge is to develop the advanced knowledge and technologies needed to deliver integrated engineering tools, decision-support systems, and related techniques and procedures that can provide cost-effective quantitative enhancement of seismic resilience of these highly critical structures and systems.


Without such knowledge, interventions remain individual case-by-case accomplishments whose impact on enhancing seismic resilience may be tangible but difficult to accurately and reliably quantify. Decisions with respect to alternative allocation of resources would also remain somewhat subjective, lacking a unified quantitative basis.


Anticipated Benefits


The availability of such advanced knowledge and integrated resilience-enhancing tools and technologies will make it possible to overcome these limitations, resulting not only in the capacity to make more rationally-based investment and resource allocation decisions, but also in the quantification of expected outcomes in terms that can be communicated to the public and

policy makers. Benefits to society can be substantial, in terms of both enhanced seismic safety and effective utilization of limited resources.


With the new knowledge derived from MCEER’s research, engineering practice will be greatly transformed, because that knowledge will make it possible for engineers to better control the outcomes of their designs and to work with their clients to review credible scenarios of investments and outcomes.


MCEER’s research will also help emergency management agencies to develop more reliable post-earthquake scenarios and to optimize their response and recovery activities through the use of advanced technologies and decision-support systems, thus enhancing resilience by accelerating the time to recovery after a major disaster.


Research Thrust Areas



Research on electrical power and water systems (focus of Thrust Area 1), together with transportation systems (addressed in MCEER’s Highway Project research component), focuses on problems germane to the infrastructural backbone of all communities.



Research on hospitals (addressed by Thrust Area 2) addresses issues related to highly complex structures that must provide essential services following earthquakes. If cost-effective solutions are found to achieve the higher levels of resilience required in these types of facilities, they may also be applicable to a wide range of other structures.




In addition, recognizing that in spite of efforts to strengthen existing structures and to better design new structures, the built environment of many cities will remain highly seismically vulnerable and unretrofitted, and that heavy losses and extensive social dislocation can be expected when the next major earthquake strikes. MCEER’s research also concentrates on bringing about improvements in community disaster response and recovery capacity (focus of Thrust Area 3).



MCEER SLC Student Guidebook 

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