Post Earthquake Business Recovery: Learning from Japan’s Experience

Tsunami Evacuation Structure


Commission Grantee – San Jose State University

Learning from Japan – Post Earthquake Business Recovery: Learning from Japan’s Experience


At the January 2018 Seismic Safety Commission meeting, Professor Guna Selvaduray of San Jose State University presented the results of his work on what California business can learn from Japan’s experience before, during and post earthquakes. His presentation covered the post-earthquake economic recovery measures implemented by the Japanese national and local governments.

This report focused on the 2012 creation and activities of the Reconstruction Agency, which was established after the M9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, and the resulting tsunami. More than 19,700 people died, 3,591 from the earthquake and the rest from the impacts of the tsunami. More than 100,000 buildings were totally destroyed and another million partially destroyed or damaged, with a total estimated economic loss of over $169 billion.

The Reconstruction Agency, which is supposed to operate for 10 years, has more than 1,000 personnel and provides a range of assistance to citizens and businesses, including housing assistance, rebuilding communities with improved disaster resilience, rebuilding homes, and health care including mental health. This is similar to what is done in the US, but Japan also has programs specifically targeted to businesses with an approach in line with Japanese business culture. Businesses with a focus on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are interdependent on each other can form a “group” and apply for funding to enable/accelerate their recovery.

The local government works with the group to prepare their application to the national government, which funds 50% (the group must provide a 12.5% match), and the grants have a $30 million maximum. Other requirements include that the group must be essential for regional recovery or the national economic supply chain. The groups can also be essential for rebuilding the regional community, such as shopping areas, or the groups can have a mutual inter-dependence and need to be supported together. Single businesses are not eligible.

As of last August, almost 700 groups representing more than 7,000 businesses had been funded and received $5 billion in support. This group approach is credited with being instrumental in accelerating economic recovery after the earthquake and tsunami and was presented by Professor Selvaduray as a model that California and the US can learn from.




Science and engineering come together with the user community in the “HayWired” scenario

HayWired – What is the value of a large-scale scenario effort?

HayWired is and will be a major undertaking for the community and promises to help raise awareness of and increase preparedness for a M 7.0 on the Hayward fault. The diagram above shows the different tiers of input (in green) and scenario outputs (in blue) that comprise HayWired. It involves experts from multiple disciplines coming together to create an integrated and credible look at the impact of a major earthquake before it happens.

USGS lists the principles of the scenario as:

  1. A large plausible event (not worst case)
  2. An event worth planning for
  3. Integrate many disciplines
  4. Reflect expert consensus
  5. Create with community partners
  6. Plain-English products for users…A tool to help visualize, plan, and prepare.

Given that USGS predicts a 33% chance of a M 6.7 or greater earthquake on the Hayward fault in 30 years (2014-43) and that it will occur in a major urban area interconnected by utilities, technology, and transportation, the impacts are likely to be massive.

It is not just the initial earthquake that will create damage and cause the area to potentially go ‘haywired’ but also multiple events that precede and follow the earthquake:

  • Earthquake early warning is triggered
  • ShakeMap is generated
  • Slip – The earthquake itself
  • Liquefaction
  • Landslides
  • Fires
  • Aftershock forecasts
  • Aftershock sequences

Each of these will impact the community, and this complex of events is what Haywired is designed to plan for.

When the Bay Area Goes HayWired !

HayWired – Background

What if a magnitude 7.0 earthquake happens on the Hayward fault starting under Oakland, California, on 4/18/18 at 4:18 pm?

The Hayward fault in Northern California is likely to slip and, when it does, a major earthquake is possible. How will we respond? What tools and technologies are available now and do we know how to use them? How can we insure that the broader planning and response community is ready and reacts in concert?

These are some of the drivers for the 2018 United States Geological Survey (USGS) earthquake scenario “HayWired”, in part funded by The Seismic Safety Commission, which engage dozens of governmental and business organizations to better understand the impacts of a M 7.0 earthquake on the Hayward fault.  “HayWired” is a reference not only to the prolonged loss of the Internet but also the chaos caused by impacts to social connectivity and technology, and the effects of damages and disruption throughout the economy.

The over-arching themes and objectives of the “HayWired” scenario include:

  1. Improve the communication of earthquake hazard science and engineering for use in decision-making
  2. Help understand and inform actions to reduce earthquake risks
  3. Help build community capacity to respond to and recover from earthquakes.

Having a detailed scenario will help engineers, emergency planners, community organizations and major firms operating in the region develop a realistic set of conversations and plans about what to do.

Sadly, it is not a matter of if the Hayward fault slips but when.



Using Satellites and Aircraft to Find Faults and Other Hazards


Commission Grantee Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL)

JPL Uses NASA Technology to Map Earthquake Faults from Space


JPL, a research facility of NASA operated by Caltech, has been working with the California Seismic Safety Commission to identify NASA technologies that can be used to increase monitoring, safety, and recovery from earthquakes. One of the key sets of technologies is to use aerial radar imaging of Earth, from satellite and aircraft, to help understand and respond to major earthquakes. The JPL report identifies several areas where their technology can help the people of California.

Space-based imaging uses satellites with multiple kinds of radars to map the Earth. A specific kind of radar, called Synthetic Aperture Radar or SAR, can measure the height of the ground and using multiple before and after passes, and identify where there has been earth movement and how much. Space-based SAR can cover a 100km-wide band, and quickly. Once identified from space, airborne SAR, with higher resolution and ease of deployment relative to the satellite based systems, can then take measurements of target areas identified by the satellites to help responders know where faults have slipped and identify potential issues.

This technology has been used several times in recent years, assisting in the Napa response and La Habra earthquakes. JPL and Caltech developed and are enhancing the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) Center for Natural Hazards and it was this center that provided the data after the Napa earthquake in 2014. The Center is now active and providing rapid response data to the user community.  The quote below, from the Director of the AEM in Mexico, reflects the impact of ARIA’s work after the 2017 earthquakes in Mexico.

“Your valuable contribution through NASA Earth Science Disasters Program, made it possible – in collaboration with other governments of Mexico – to take the appropriate decisions for mapping damage, rescuing and eventually recovery of the damage, as well as to address and inform to the population about the affected zones and the areas prone to further risk.” Francisco Javier Mendieta Jimenez, Director, AEM After the M7.1 Central Mexico Earthquake


Early Detection of Post Earthquake Gas Leaks Using Airborne and Space Technologies


Commission Grantee Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL)

JPL Uses NASA Technology to Locate Methane Release from Space


JPL, a research facility of NASA operated by CalTech, has been working with the California Seismic Safety Commission to identify NASA technologies that can be used to increase monitoring, safety, and recovery from earthquakes. After an earthquake there is a high risk of fire. The most damage that occurred in San Francisco in 1906 was due to the fire, not the shaking (and many residents still refer to it as the great fire of 1906). Today the risk of rupture of major natural gas distribution lines and pipelines during an earthquake is of great concern. Early detection of gas releases from sources underneath the ground is difficult on a wide scale. But JPL has used the Hyperion spectrometer on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) to identify gas releases from space. The leaks can then be confirmed by aircraft-flown sensors for more precise identification.  Early detection of gas leaks will reduce the number of post-earthquake ignitions.

Quickly identifying a gas leak from space can help ground personnel know where to close off pipelines, or if need be, evacuate people before a major fire or explosion following an earthquake.

Finding People in Collapsed Structures After Earthquakes


Commission Grantee Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL)

JPL Uses NASA Technology to Find People Trapped by an Earthquake


JPL, a research facility of NASA operated by CalTech, has been working with the Commission to identify NASA technologies that can be used to increase monitoring, safety and recovery from earthquakes. The FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response) system is a man-portable low-power radar that can penetrate the ground and rubble to find a person trapped up to 9 meters (30 feet) below the surface or beneath 6 meters (20 feet) of solid concrete.

The prototype unit has been successfully trialed after the 2015 Nepal earthquake, and JPL is now working to determine how best to train personnel in the use of FINDER and how to enhance the technology so it can be commercialized.

FINDER, a technology from space brought down to Earth to save lives.


Seismic Safety Commission Participates in a public-private partnership to test six story building


Commission Grantee UC San Diego

Seismic Safety Commission Partners with Government and Private Industry to Keep Us Safe


Cold formed steel (CFS) framed buildings are easier and faster to build and increasingly being used in urban areas for apartments, hospitals, medical buildings and schools. They are less expensive to build and maintain compared with other systems, are lightweight, and manufactured from recycled materials. But, due to limited understanding of their performance under earthquake conditions design engineers and contractors are precluded from constructing mid-rise CFS-framed. Also, the post-earthquake fire performance of CFS-framed buildings above 3-4 stories is unknown, and more information is needed to support code acceptance of such buildings in earthquake-prone areas.

Knowing how these structures respond to seismic events and withstand fire damage is important to the safety of the people who occupy them, and to the economics of those who fund, build and insure these structures. Computer simulations work well when the event response characteristics of the structure are well known, however these materials and designs are relatively new. So, the best way to test is to build one and shake it, burn it and then shake it again.

But this can be expensive, much more so than any single organization would want to or be able to fund.  The Seismic Safety Commission helped fund an effort to build, shake, burn and then shake again a six -story CSF building at UCSD’s massive outdoor shake table.  But it did so working with the Federal Government (HUD) and engaging 16 private sector partners, from manufacturers of the steel, to contracting firms, to insurance companies.  And in addition to UCSD, which has deep experience in earthquake testing of structures the project included senior researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts who are experts in the response of structures to fires.

How did the test building do?  It withstood the shaking and fire, and the structure did not collapse.  A good end to a very rigorous test, and supported by a robust private-public partnership.


Drones Help with Post Disaster Damage Inspection


Commission Grantee UC San Diego

UCSD researchers using drones to detect earthquake damage to buildings


A team of researchers at UC San Diego is developing a new approach for detecting earthquake damage to buildings with funding provided in part by the California Seismic Safety Commission.  This work will permit more rapid damage assessment of structures after a seismic event and may lead to the ability to identify which buildings are safe to enter much more quickly and using less expert resource than is currently needed. Use of this technology will help speed post-disaster recovery.

The research team is using techniques that were earlier used on a 6 story building on the UCSD shake table, the largest outdoor test facility of its kind in the world, where the Commission had provided funding for the shake test and drone building mapping.  Then working together with laser mapping experts from Scripps Institute of Oceanography they mapped the iconic UCSD Geisel Library, making a digital record of the structure.

“We are using this culturally significant building on campus as a reference model to help detect structural changes over time,” said Falko Kuester, a professor of structural engineering who serves as director of the Jacob’s School Cultural Heritage Engineering Initiative (CHEI) and DroneLab and a Commission grantee.


World’s Largest Outdoor Shake Table Tests How Buildings will Perform During Earthquakes


Commission Grantee UC San Diego

UC San Diego Uses Largest Outdoor Shake Table to Test Steel Frame Construction


Earthquakes cause shaking motions than can, if intense enough and of sufficient duration, damage buildings and other structures. But buildings and earthquakes have a complicated interaction, and understanding how different structures will respond to different kinds of earthquakes requires testing. And if the building is large enough a big shake table to test it is required.

The largest outdoor shake table in the world is in San Diego. Operated by the UCSD school of Engineering, it is big enough to support a six-story building and shake it with the same force as the Northridge Earthquake, burn part of it, and then shake it again.

This kind of research supported by the California Seismic Safety Commission insures that the buildings we construct will be safe to occupy, saving lives and property in the event of an earthquake (demonstrated here in numerous videos).

Learning Post Earthquake Economic Recovery Lessons from Japan


Commission Grantee – San Jose State University

Learning from Japan – Improving post-earthquake economic recovery


Japan is, like California, located along the “Ring of Fire” and subject to frequent earthquakes.  Japan was one of the first nations to build an earthquake early warning system (EEWS) and it is used and trusted.  In the past decade Japan has experienced numerous earthquakes, but the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 and the Great Hanshin (Kobe) earthquake of 1995 had devastating impacts on the people and industry that experienced strong shaking.

Since the Tohoku Earthquake experience, the Japanese national and local governments implemented numerous measures to help drive the recovery, and growth, of affected businesses.  This provides an opportunity to learn from the experience of the Japanese to identify post-earthquake economic recovery measures that could apply to California.

The Seismic Safety Commission has partnered with San Jose State University to work with Japan affiliated California businesses to learn from the experiences of their Japanese parent firms and partners, in an effort to accelerate California’s post-earthquake economic recovery. This project consists of a survey of the recovery measures implemented by the Japanese governments, and if available, learn how effective these measures have been.  It will also include surveying California firms with Japanese affiliations to determine their perceived needs for earthquake recovery assistance.

This project also includes seminars for Japanese companies in northern and southern California to educate them on the earthquake threat in the State. These seminars will also cover the regulations designed to accelerate economic recovery and information on US federal, state and local programs that can assist their businesses.

Together with other programs the Commission has sponsored, such as that with the California Small Business Development Commission, this work will help inform the development of a broad business/economic recovery strategy for the State of California.