GeoHazards International (GHI) is a California based non-profit which works to bring the best practices in seismic safety from the developed world to the developing world. GHI was founded in 1991 by geologist Brian Tucker. Tucker had been raised in California, and as the state geologist there, he was acutely aware of both the earthquake hazards as well as all that California had done – legally, socially & culturally – to mitigate such hazards.
Tucker traveled extensively in Tajikistan and throughout Central Asia while doing research for his PhD. The vulnerability of the buildings he found there stayed with him as he returned to California. After his return, he began to consider how the advanced mitigation strategies in a place like California could be thoughtfully translated and put to use in the most vulnerable parts of the world. Tucker’s approach to this problem would become the GHI model.
Foremost, GHI takes a holistic approach to disaster mitigation that includes training local masons, engineers & architects to retrofit buildings, creating a demand for retrofitting services with public awareness campaigns, developing school safety programs, and ensuring emergency resources such as hospitals will withstand natural disasters. GHI attempts to support a country’s engagement of seismic hazards from all angles – the same way California does.
To wit, GHI also makes a point to work across multiple scales.
Some of GHI’s disaster-mitigation strategies include small, village-level interventions, such as retrofitting vulnerable schools and conducting community outreach programs. In addition, GHI implements top-down solutions, such as creating structural engineering programs for universities and drafting national models for cost-effective seismic retrofitting of homes, schools, and hospitals.
GHI also works to map future disasters, so as to raise public awareness and stimulate action. They calculate the percentage of damage in different regions of a city based on the strength of the earthquake and the dominant building types. They describe in layman terms what life would be like in the city immediately after a disaster (as well as one week, one month, and one year later). This assessment is published in a major local newspaper to garner public interest in seismic upgrades. The ambition is that the gathering of public will would incentivize political and economic leaders to act in advance of a disaster, rather than after.
GHI has been a leader in the field of disaster and resilience for decades, chiefly because they approach it holistically: past, present and future.
We were fortunate enough to speak with Brian Tucker and Kenneth Kornberg of GHI on April 27, 2017. Please have a listen.