Earthquakes: Risk, Monitoring, Notification, and Research [Updated June 19, 2008]   [open pdf - 431KB]

This Congressional Research Service (CRS) report discusses the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) what it covers and needed improvements to the existing program infrastructure to better proactively address earthquake related hazards. "Given the potentially huge costs associated with a severe earthquake, an ongoing issue for Congress is whether the federally supported programs aimed at reducing U.S. vulnerability to earthquakes are an adequate response to the earthquake hazard. Under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), four federal agencies have responsibility for long-term earthquake risk reduction: the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). They variously assess U.S. earthquake hazards, send notifications of seismic events, develop measures to reduce earthquake hazards, and conduct research to help reduce overall U.S. vulnerability to earthquakes. Congress established NEHRP in 1977, and its early focus was on research that would lead to an improved understanding of why earthquakes occur and to an ability to predict their occurrence precisely. Understanding has improved about why and where earthquakes occur; however, reliably predicting the precise date and time an earthquake will occur is not yet possible. Congress most recently reauthorized NEHRP in 2004 (P.L. 108-360) and authorized appropriations through FY2009. The 2004 reauthorization designated NIST as the lead agency to create better synergy among the agencies and improve the program. Congress may wish to determine whether the reorganized structure has yielded expected benefits for the program. Appropriations for NEHRP have not met levels authorized for the past four years, falling short by an average of 31% for FY2005 through FY2008. What effect funding at the levels enacted through FY2008 has had on the U.S. capability to detect earthquakes and minimize losses after an earthquake occurs is not clear."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL33861
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