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.