For a proper management of large earthquake disasters in densely populated areas it is of utmost importance that local authorities and decision makers rapidly obtain a clear picture about the potential damage and losses afflicted to the building stock and the local population.
The field of real-time earthquake loss estimation combines the generation of ground-motion shaking maps (ShakeMaps) with a powerful loss computation engine which is able to produce robust estimates on structural damage as well as connected economical losses and casualties. In a disaster management context, it is not only of interest to know about the absolute losses but also to get more detailed information on the spatial distribution of damage or what type of structures are of particular interest.
The outcomes of these studies enable local authorities to conduct prevention and preparedness actions of future earthquake disasters or emergency and civil protection agencies to organize search and rescue operations in a more rapid, targeted and effective manner.
The figure below illustrates the real-time risk assessment system developed for the Romanian-Bulgarian border region by NORSAR in collaboration with INFP Bucharest under the umbrella of the EU-funded DACEA project.
The system, which is in operation today, provides damage and loss estimates immediately after a major event in the region. These estimates are provided in the form of easy-to-grasp damage distribution maps that are intended to assist local emergency management agencies in the coordination of emergency operations as well as search and rescue operations. These maps convey the basic message of earthquake damage and loss studies, and for this reason many hazard or risk studies are exclusively presented in the form of maps. The figure below illustrates an example of damage distribution GIS map generated by the real-time earthquake loss information system for the Romanian-Bulgarian border region. One of the great advantages of such maps is that the results presented in this way may be understandable by many while still maintaining professional quality. The system was designed to be able to integrate the USGS ShakeMap software, which is producing ground motion shake maps considering real-time recordings of all available seismic stations in the region, with NORSAR’s damage and loss assessment package SELENA.
In case of an earthquake, geographic maps that depict the derived damage and loss estimates are automatically prepared as soon as the damage and loss assessment is completed. These maps are then prepared in various electronic formats and provided in a near-real-time mode to regional and local authorities and emergency management agencies.