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Since the publication of the successful first edition of Earthquake Protection there have been 110 lethal earthquakes, killing 130 000 people; there have also been significant developments in the field of earthquake risk management, particularly in the modelling and analysis of risk for insurance and financial services. Furthermore, major earthquake disasters, such as the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California, the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan and the 1999 Kocaeli earthquake in Turkey have occurred. The experience and knowledge gained through these events have improved our understanding of how to manage, mitigate and work towards the prevention of similar catastrophes. The 1990s were in fact the costliest decade on record in terms of disaster management due to such seismic events, placing unprecedented pressure on the insurance industry in particular, and changing its view of earthquake protection.

Significantly revised and updated, this second edition continues to provide a comprehensive overview of how to reduce the impact of earthquakes on people and property, and implement best practice in managing the consequences of such disasters. It also includes significant coverage of the techniques of modelling earthquake catastrophe. Each chapter deals with a separate aspect of protection, and covers a wide range of economic and social conditions, drawing on the authors' considerable personal experience and with reference to real life examples.

Key features include:

  • Recent event coverage
  • Modern developments in the theory and practice of planning and engineering loss estimation techniques, along with new engineering techniques such as microzonation and hazard-mapping
  • Historic buildings experience
  • An entirely new chapter on 'Earthquakes and Finance'

This valuable book provides essential reading for earthquake and structural engineers and geoscientists, as well as insurers and loss prevention specialists, risk managers and assessors involved in managing earthquake risk, urban and regional planners, and emergency management agencies.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470849231
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/30/2002
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 436
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Coburn is an executive of Risk Management Solutions, Inc., the world's leading insurance risk management and catastrophe modeling company, working with insurance clients to assist with the management of earthquake risk. Dr. Coburn has many years of international experience of earthquake risk analysis and catastrophe modeling. He originally completed his PhD on earthquake risk at Cambridge University in the 1980s under the supervision of Dr. Robin Spence and has studied many catastrophes and developed techniques for their analysis, modeling and quantification. For over 20 years, he has participated in the study of catastrophe events including 15 field damage surveys, ranging from the Italian earthquake in 1980 to the Gujarat earthquake in India in 2001. His research work has included research into human casualties in catastrophes, including Visiting Fellowships at Hokkaido University in Japan, Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Washington, DC, USA and University of Naples, Italy.

Robin Spence is a structural engineer and Reader in Architectural Engineering in the Department of Architecture at Cambridge University. He has been active in the field of earthquake risk mitigation for over 20 years. During that time he has taken part in many field missions, and was one of the founders of EEFIT, the earthquake engineering team in 1983. He has also directed numerous research projects on earthquake vulnerability assessment, loss estimation and disaster mitigation, and is the author of many papers, reports and manuals on these subjects. He has frequently been a consultant to international agencies, national governments and insurance companies on the assessment andmitigation of earthquake and volcanic hazards.

After obtaining his PhD on the analysis of reinforced concrete structures, Dr. Spence has been with the Department of Architecture at Cambridge University since 1975, and has been a Director and Joint Director of the Martin Centre since 1985. He has been a Visiting Professor at MIT and UCLA, at the University of Naples and at Macquarie University in Sydney. He is currently Director of the Cambridge University Centre for Risk in the Built Environment. He is also a Director of Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd, and a Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

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Read an Excerpt

Earthquake Protection

By Andrew Coburn Robin Spence

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-49614-6

Chapter One

Earthquakes, Disasters and Protection

1.1 Earthquake Protection: Past Failure and Present Opportunity

In spite of the huge technical achievements of the last century - which have given us skyscraper cities, fast and cheap air travel and instant global telecommunications, as well as eradicating many major diseases and providing the potential to feed our burgeoning population - over much of the world the threat of earthquakes has remained untamed. As later chapters will show, the progress we have made in reducing the global death toll from earthquakes is modest, and at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we have become distressingly familiar with tragic media images of the total devastation of towns, villages and human lives caused by large earthquakes, for which their victims have been quite unprepared.

One possible reason for the lack of progress in saving lives from earthquakes is that although they are among our oldest enemies, it is only in the last quarter of the twentieth century that we have begun to understand how to protect ourselves against them. From time to time in our history, parts of the earth have apparently randomly been shaken violently by vast energy releases. Where these events have occurred near human settlements, the destruction has been legendary. Tales of destruction of ancient cities, like Troy in Greek mythology, and Taxila, have been attributed to the power of the earthquake. In more recent memory the cities of Messina in Italy, Tangshan in China, Tokyo and Kobe in Japan, and San Francisco in the United States have all been devastated by massive earthquakes. The apparent randomness of earthquakes, their lack of any visible cause and their frightening destructiveness earned them over the centuries the status of divine judgement. They were the instruments of displeasure of the Greek god Poseidon, the spiteful wriggling of the subterranean catfish Namazu in Japanese mythology, and punishment for sinners in Christian belief.

Only over the last century or so have we begun to understand what earthquakes are and what causes them. We have come to know that earthquakes are not random, but are natural forces driven by the evolutionary processes of the planet we live on. Earthquakes can now be mapped, measured, analysed and demystified. We know where they are likely to occur and we are beginning to develop predictive methods which reduce the uncertainty about where and when the next destructive events will happen. But in many of the parts of the world most at risk from large earthquakes, some aspects of the old attitudes live on; people are fatalistic, unwilling to believe that they have the means or ability to combat such destructive power, and thus they are reluctant to think in terms of planning, organising and spending part of their income - as individuals or as societies - on protection.

What makes matters worse is that the twenty-first century is experiencing an unparalleled explosion in the world's population growth, and an exponential growth in the size and number of villages, towns and cities across the globe. At the present time, unlike previous centuries, there is hardly a place on land where a large earthquake can occur without causing damage. As cities increase in size, so the potential for massive destruction increases. For this reason, the risk of earthquake disaster is higher than at any time in our history, and the risk is increasing. In the past few decades we have seen catastrophic disasters to cities and regions across the world on a scale unheard of a century ago. Unless serious efforts are made to improve earthquake protection worldwide, we can expect to see similar and greater disasters with increasing frequency in the years to come.

But the science and practice of how to protect ourselves, our buildings and our cities from earthquakes has also been developing rapidly during recent years. A body of knowledge has been built up by engineers, urban planners, financiers, administrators and government officials about how to tackle this threat. The approach to protection is necessarily a multi-disciplinary one, and one requiring a wide range of measures including well-targetted spending on protection, better building design and increasing quality of construction in the areas most likely to suffer an earthquake.

Earthquake protection involves everyone. The general public have to be aware of the safety issues involved in the type of house they live in and of earthquake considerations inside the home and workplace. The construction industry is involved in improving building design and increasing quality. Politicians and administrators manage risk by making decisions about how much to spend on earthquake safety and where public resources are most effectively allocated. Many other participants are involved either directly or indirectly, including urban planners in designing safer cities, community groups in preparing for future earthquakes and motivating their members to protect themselves, private companies and organisations in protecting themselves, their employees and customers, and insurance companies in assessing the risks and providing cover for people to protect themselves.

This book is for everyone interested in understanding, organising or participating in earthquake protection. It is intended to provide an overview of methods to reduce the impact of future earthquakes and to deal with earthquakes when they occur.

1.2 Earthquake Disasters

Earthquakes can be devastating to people as individuals, to families, to social organisations at every level, and to economic life. Unquestionably the most terrible consequence of earthquakes is the massive loss of human life which they are able to cause. The first task of earthquake protection is universally agreed to be reducing the loss of human life. The number and distribution of human casualties caused by earthquakes show the scale of the problem.

1.2.1 Casualties Around the World

Table 1.1 gives a list of confirmed or officially reported deaths in earthquakes in different countries around the world during the twentieth century. We know of at least 1248 lethal earthquakes during the twentieth century, with a total of 1 685 000 officially reported deaths due to earthquakes. Over 40% of this total has occurred in a single country, namely China.

The total number of people actually killed by earthquakes is likely to be greater than the 1.7 million reported total. Small earthquakes causing only a few deaths may have gone unreported, and in 87 of the significant earthquakes reported this century, no figure for fatalities is officially available. Published estimates of fatalities may also be inaccurate, particularly in large events affecting many communities or in isolated areas. Some figures are also likely to be overestimates.

The risk to life from earthquakes is widespread. As Table 1.1 shows, at least 80 countries suffered life loss during the twentieth century. There also some other countries which are known to have suffered fatalities, sometimes on a large scale, in earlier centuries but which are not included in the list of countries suffering fatalities over the last 100 years. Future earthquakes may pose a significant threat in these countries. Large life loss is also widespread; half of all the countries which suffered any fatalities have had life loss running to thousands.

The extent of life loss in each country is primarily a function of the severity of life loss in individual earthquakes, rather than simply of the number of earthquakes experienced. Contrasting extreme examples from this list, the number of lethal earthquakes suffered by China is only double the number experienced by Greece, and yet the number of people killed is almost a thousand times greater.

The main contributors to the death toll are the small number of earthquakes which have caused large numbers of fatalities. Measured this way, the worst earthquakes of the twentieth century are listed in Table 1.2. The six worst events are responsible for almost exactly half of the total earthquake fatalities. A major reduction in the total number of people killed in earthquakes could be achieved if further repetitions of these extremely lethal events could be avoided. In order to avoid their repetition, it is first necessary to identify and understand the factors that made these events particularly lethal and then to work towards reducing these factors.

1.2.2 The Causes of Earthquake Fatalities

The statistics recording death due to earthquakes identify a wide range of earthquake-induced causes of death. Statistics include deaths from the fires following earthquakes, from tsunamis generated by off-shore events, from rockfalls, landslides and other hazards triggered by earthquakes. There are a wide range of other causes of death officially attributed to the occurrence of an earthquake, ranging from medical conditions induced by the shock of experiencing ground motion, to accidents occurring during the disturbance, epidemic among the homeless and shootings during martial law. Any or all of these may be included in published death tolls from any particular earthquake.

It is clear from reports, however, that in most large-scale earthquake disasters, such as those in Table 1.2, the principal cause of death is the collapse of buildings. In earthquakes affecting a higher quality building stock, e.g. Japan and the United States, more fatalities are caused by the failure of non-structural elements or by earthquake-induced accidents than are killed in collapsing buildings, mainly because low proportions of buildings suffer complete collapse. Examples of failure of non-structural elements are pieces being dislodged from the exterior of buildings, the collapse of freestanding walls, or the overturning of building contents and equipment. Examples of earthquake-induced accidents include fire caused by the overturning of stoves, people falling from balconies or motor accidents.

Over the last century, about 75% of fatalities attributed to earthquakes have been caused by the collapse of buildings. Figure 1.1 shows the breakdown of earthquake fatalities by cause for each half of this century. This shows that by far the greatest proportion of victims die in the collapse of masonry buildings. These are primarily weak masonry buildings (adobe, rubble stone or rammed earth) or unreinforced fired brick or concrete block masonry that can collapse even at low intensities of ground shaking and will collapse very rapidly at high intensities. These building types (one local example is shown in Figure 1.6) are common in seismic areas around the world and still today make up a very large proportion of the world's existing building stock.

Much of the increased populations in developing countries will continue to be housed in this type of structure for the foreseeable future. However, there are continuing changes in the types of buildings being constructed in many of the countries most at risk. Modern building materials, commercialisation of the construction industry and modernisation in the outlook of town and village dwellers are bringing about rapid changes in building stock. Brick and concrete block are common building materials in even the most remote areas of the world, and the wealthier members of rural communities who 20 or 30 years ago would have lived in weak masonry houses now live in reinforced concrete framed houses and apartment blocks.

Unfortunately, many of the reinforced concrete framed houses and apartment blocks built in the poorer countries are also highly vulnerable and, moreover, when they do collapse, they are considerably more lethal and kill a higher percentage of their occupants than masonry buildings. In the second half of the twentieth century most of the urban disasters involved collapses of reinforced concrete buildings and Figure 1.1 shows that the proportion of deaths due to collapse of reinforced concrete buildings is significantly greater than earlier in the century.

1.2.3 The World's Earthquake Problem is Increasing

On average, about 200 large-magnitude earthquakes occur in a decade - about 20 each year. Some 10% to 20% of these large-magnitude earthquakes occur in mid-ocean, a long way away from land and human settlements. Those that occur on land or close to the coast do not all cause damage: some happen deep in the earth's crust so that the dissipated energy is dispersed harmlessly over a wide area before it reaches the surface. Others occur in areas only sparsely inhabited and well away from towns or human settlements.

However, as the world's population grows and areas previously with small populations become increasingly densely settled, the propensity for earthquakes to cause damage increases. At the start of the century, less than one in three of large earthquakes on land killed someone. The number has gradually increased throughout the century, roughly in line with the world's population, until in the twenty-first century, two earthquakes in every three now kill someone. The increasing frequency of lethal earthquakes is shown in Figure 1.3.

But the annual rate of earthquake fatalities does show some signs of being reduced. Figure 1.1 shows that the total number of fatalities in the years 1950-1999 has averaged 14 000 a year - down from an average of 16 000 a year in the previous 50 years. And the number of earthquake-related fatalities in the 1990s was 116 000, an average for the decade of 11 600 per year. Some of this reduction is undoubtedly due to beneficial changes: the reduction in fatalities from fire is largely due to changes in the Japanese building stock and successful measures taken by Japan to avoid conflagrations in its cities. And changes in building practices in some areas are making a significant proportion of buildings stronger than they used to be.

Nevertheless the present worldwide rate of reduction in vulnerability appears insufficient to offset the inexorable increase in population at risk. In the last decade the world's populationwas increasing by about 1.5% annually, i.e. doubling every 50 years or so, so the average vulnerability of the world's building stock needs to be falling at a reciprocal rate, i.e. halving every 50 years, simply for the average annual loss to be stabilised. The evidence suggests that although the average vulnerability of building stock is falling, it is not falling that quickly, so that the global risk of future fatalities is rising overall.

1.2.4 Urban Risk

Urban earthquake risk today derives from the combination of local seismicity - the likelihood of a large-magnitude earthquake - combined with large numbers of poorly built or highly vulnerable dwellings.


Excerpted from Earthquake Protection by Andrew Coburn Robin Spence Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

About the Authors.



Earthquakes, Disasters and Protection.

The Costs of Earthquakes.

Preparedness for Earthquakes.

The Earthquake Emergency.

Recovering from Earthquakes.

Strategies for Earthquake Protection.

Site Selection and Seismic Hazard Assessment.

Improving Earthquake Resistance of Buildings.

Earthquake Risk Modelling.

Risk Mitigation in Action.



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