USGS:Science for a changing world

Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores, San Juan, March 23-24, 1999

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Executive Summary
State of Knowledge
Working Group Reports:
 Marine geology/ geophysics
 Earthquake seismology
 Societal concerns
Workshop Goals

Societal Concerns Working Group Report

Leaders – Maria M Irizarry, USGS-WRD, Mariano Vargas (Director-Natural Hazards Mitigation Program, Puerto Rico Civil Defense)


Alan Springett, (FEMA-Region 2), Angel J. Serrano (Puerto Rico Telephone Co.), Agnes Reyes (Cigna Insurance Co.), Haydee Quiñones (Cigna Insurance Co.), Jean Weaver, USGS – International Geology, and World Bank), Robert Rorario (Saldaña & Associates, Insurance Brokers), Orlando Gonzalez (Saldaña & Associates, Insurance Brokers), Alma Aldarondo (CSM Insurance co.), Elvin Aponte Acevedo (CSM Insurance Co.), Jose M. Cosme, (Puerto Rico EPA), Stuart Nishenko (FEMA) Jacqueline J. Heyliger (Virgin Islands Emergency Management Agency), Radames Torres (Consultant), Ivan Tavares (Sub-director General de Mineria, Dominican Republic), Joe Troester (USGS-WRD-PR), Ruth H. Velez (Puerto Rico Dept. of Natural Resources)


  • To minimize loss of life and property in the region due to earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides.
  • Through preventive measures focusing on
    • Education
    • Mitigation
    • Emergency planning

Common Tools

  • Scientists need to develop and provide the tools to address societal concerns. Some of these tools are common to different hazards
    • Current information is needed for the Virgin Islands as well as Puerto Rico
    • Existing maps should be disseminated and used


    • Workshops, school demos, media promos, provide a general audience buy-in and sense of ownership to promote the concept of mitigation
      • Promote private partnerships between local communities and businesses, particularly the insurance and financial sectors, to educate the public modeled after FEMA’s Project Impact - "Building a Disaster Resistant Community"
      • Develop local trainers using existing community structures
      • Promote disaster consciousness among various community groups such as:
        • Churches
        • Schools
        • Civic Groups (Lions Club, Rotary Club, Boy and Girl Scouts Clubs, etc.)

      Education - Tools

      • Tools must be both technical and non-technical.
        • Technical tools would provide information for building professionals and codes enforcers
        • Non-technical maps could be used for education of elementary school and for use by local politicians to explain codes, rationale for public works decisions and zoning to local constituents. Must be bilingual, easily understood and attractive.

      Education - Clients

      • Local Municipalities
      • Insurance and financial institutions
      • Businesses
      • Civil Works Groups
      • Public

      Education - Points of Contact

      • Pre-disaster & Post-disaster
        • Federal
        • State
        • Local
        • Community
      • Use disasters to sell mitigation concepts for the next time
        • Prepare programs before the disaster


      • Structural
        • Building Code modifications
        • Retrofitting of properties (Insurance incentives, tax incentives, low interest loans)
        • Identify earthquake-resistant shelters and evacuation routes
      • Non-Structural
        • Preplanning and community involvement with local utilities
        • Communications among all involved parties
        • Relocation of people from hazardous areas (prevent people from returning to unsafe structures and areas)
        • Enforcement of regulations and codes - do not allow development in landslide-prone areas


      • Evacuation Routes
        • Must be specific for the type of event. Tsunamis, floods and earthquakes will require different procedures.
      • Incident command system
        • Common organization, procedures, responsible groups, communication, etc.
      • Public Awareness Programs
        • Communicate information on various hazards through respected people in the community as well as government and civic organizations
        • Assist in development of household emergency plans - evacuation routes, communication, emergency supplies and post-emergency meeting areas

      A proposed outreach product – An insert or a supplement to the Sunday newspaper describing earthquakes preparedness, should be produced, following similar efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, and the Dominican Republic

      • Emergency Response Groups
        • Civil Defense, Police, Fire Departments, Medical Emergencies, 9-1-1

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