Using Hazus to Plan for Disaster

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Hazus program is a one-of-a-kind computer simulation to determine the damage and loss of life in case of a natural disaster. In a recent demonstration for the Associated Press (AP), Hazus detailed the results of a what-if scenario in the Seattle area and King County, involving a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on the Cascadia Fault. The story can be found here.

Using the Cascadia subduction zone as an example, scientists have determined that an 8.0 to 9.0 quake hits this fault line about every 500 years, with the last one being in 1700. Of particular worry to government agencies: A quake along this 680-mile long fault line would level parts of the region and cause landslides, tsunamis, fires and hazardous spills. This year, FEMA plans to release an updated examination from the original study, which was conducted in 2005. They are partnering with the Canadian Government to do a bi-national model of a 9.0 quake hitting the Pacific Northwest.

According to John Schelling of the Washington Emergency Management department, “There’s going to be an impact to infrastructure, to bridges, and to roads that we rely on every day.” Schelling went on to state that the Hazus program will provide another source of information that can lead to better preparation and take some of the burden off of emergency responders, who will be dealing with more pressing concerns. The message is, essentially, the more we can do to prepare and help ourselves, the less of a burden we will be in the case of an emergency or natural disaster.

It might sound like grim information to put out there through the Hazus project, but if you ask Adam Campbell, a project analyst with FEMA, and the presenter of the Cascadia simulation to the AP, it is well worth it. It is FEMA’s goal to provide such data for free in the hope of helping state and local agencies be better prepared in case of disaster.

For more information about FEMA’s Hazus project, visit: