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Utilization of Rapid Post-Earthquake Data by Utilities

by William Savage

Savage, William (1998). Utilization of Rapid Post-Earthquake Data by Utilities. SMIP98 Seminar on Utilization of Strong-Motion Data, p. 43 - 52.

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When a potentially damaging earthquake occurs, utilities (electricity, gas, water, and telecommunications) have an urgent need for information about the effects of the event so that they can make optimal decisions regarding safety and maintaining and restoring utility functionality. Modern earthquake instrumentation systems, including strong- motion recorders and regional seismic networks, can collect data and provide information products that can greatly improve this decision-making and action-taking process. Four areas of utility response to earthquakes illustrate the utilization of these data: (1) Rapidly available network and strong motion data can provide an earthquake alert that will make utility personnel aware that an earthquake is occurring, what area of the utility's service territory is affected, and the likely extent of damaging ground motions. This alert will focus the earthquake response attention of the utility and may permit quick operational and life-safety actions. (2) Within 10 to 30 minutes after the earthquake, analysis of strong-motion data from key utility sites will provide assessments of the likelihood of damage that can be used to prioritize deployment of field personnel and guide the initial operational control and recovery plans. (3) In the same time frame, similar strong-motion-based damage assessments of transportation routes (e. g. freeways, bridges, and overpasses) along with reported damage and disruption will help the utilities plan how to get inspection and repair crews to key facilities. In addition, damage likelihood assessments of commercial, industrial, and residential buildings will indicate where utility service connections may need rapid responses to safety and secondary damage threats. (4) Within a few hours of the earthquake, pre-arranged building inspectors can use building response strong-motion measurements to help evaluate the safety of continued occupancy of structures housing critical post-earthquake response functions.