Congress Works On Earthquake Preparedness Ahead Of Potential Disaster

Oct 9, 2018

If any bipartisanship still exists in Congress, it’s on earthquake preparedness. A bill that aims to reduce risks to life and property has cleared the U.S. Senate.  KLCC's Brian Bull reports.

An earthquake-damaged road in Indonesia. Concerns over the resiliency of roads, dams, highways, and other infrastructure surround many communities in the Pacific Northwest.
Credit US AID Indonesia /

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act builds on the original program enacted more than 40 years ago, to help communities in vulnerable areas perform risk and hazard assessments, as well as improve infrastructure.

Allison Pyrch is a former president of the Oregon chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and an associate geotechnical engineer in Portland.  Pyrch says this bill is crucial.

A railroad track is warped and buckled after the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Credit Mike Campbell /

“Both on the national level as well as on the state level, simply because we are wholly unprepared for both of the earthquake hazards that we anticipate here,” Pyrch tells KLCC. “Not only Cascadia but we could have a crustal event, similar to the Nisqually event that happened in 2001 in Seattle.”

Pyrch says she especially appreciates the bill’s educational component, to help people know what to expect in the weeks following a quake.

“Here in Oregon and Washington, we say it’s going to be two weeks before even a first responder is at your door,” she says. 

“So do you have enough water and food, can you take care of yourself for those two weeks?  And some of our rural areas, it’s going to be significantly longer than that.”

The Senate has passed a version co-sponsored by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.  The House will review it against its own version.

The last reauthorization lapsed in 2009.

Copyright 2018, KLCC.