Lessons from the Great East Japan (Tohoku) Earthquake

Group at Tsunami Site

Reconnaissance Team in front of Disaster Prevention Building (destroyed by the Tsunami rather than the earthquake). Photo: Mark Pierepiekarz, MRP Engineering

The Tohuku Earthquake was the fourth largest ever recorded in the world.  Doug Lindquist of Hart Crowser was part of a reconnaissance team that traveled to MiyagiPrefecture in Japan last June after the earthquake and tsunami. Doug found the experience in the tsunami-impacted areas profoundly moving.  “The damage was incomprehensible. Nearly everything was gone.”

The goal of the team was to learn lessons to apply to the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Hawaii. After all, with the Cascadia Subduction Zone just off the Pacific coast, the Big One around here may not be far off.

 A quick list is of the team’s findings is below. 

  •  Japan is the most prepared country in the world for both earthquakes and tsunamis.  We should continue to look at their examples to save lives and property in our own areas. 
  • Seismic retrofit and protection technology works.
  • CurrentU.S. building codes and standards for earthquake design of new structures are very good at addressing life-safety.
  • For a large earthquake, saving lives is not enough.  Building and infrastructure performance levels need to be higher so people can remain in buildings and the economy can recover quickly.
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