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Drop! Cover! Hold On! The Great ShakeOut

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Prior to the 5.8 magnitude earthquake in the DC area in August 2011, it would have been a safe bet to say that most local long time residents didn’t think about earthquakes often. Although that earthquake was considered “fairly run-of-the mill”, according to USGS, it certainly got everyone’s attention in the District, Maryland and Virginia. No earthquake that great had happened here in the last 100 years. Ever since that date, earthquakes have come to greater local attention. So when I got a reminder in my email box from USGS that Thursday, October 15 is the Great ShakeOut in California, I thought it would be interesting to check our shelves and see what the Law Library holds in relation to building codes and earthquakes and disaster relief law. We’ve written about earthquakes on the blog before, such as when Kelly wrote about the earthquake in New Zealand in 2010, and Sayuri wrote a post about the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Reading those posts, our related research reports and our pathfinders is a good place to start research.

Students participate in the Great Southeast ShakeOut earthquake drill at Langston Hughes Middle School in Reston, Virginia. They are conducting the "drop, cover and hold on" safety procedure, October 18, 2012.
Students participate in the Great Southeast ShakeOut earthquake drill at Langston Hughes Middle School in Reston, Virginia. They are conducting the “drop, cover and hold on” safety procedure, October 18, 2012. [photo by Jessica Robertson, USGS] []
It was good to find that although earthquakes typically haven’t been a local concern, the Library holds a fair number of volumes covering these related topics. Many of the volumes that we hold specifically pertaining to earthquakes are in Japanese, as Japan has been proactive in planning for that type of disaster. Not surprisingly, jurisdictions that have more earthquakes have a considerable amount of law and public policy on the books related to earthquakes; you’ll find that books from or about Japan, Israel and New Zealand dominate our holdings on this topic.

Three years ago a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure met to discuss a review of building codes and mitigation costs for natural disasters. The presiding chairman, the Hon. Jeff Denham, noted during that hearing, “As a Member from California, I know firsthand the difference building codes can have in saving lives and reducing costs. With the threats of wildfires and earthquakes, good building code can mean the difference between life and death or whether homes remain standing or completely destroyed” (p. 1). He further noted that the CBO did a study in 2007 that demonstrated that every dollar of pre-mitigation grants spent resulted in three dollars saved in disaster-related losses. While Representative Denham’s comment was more directed to passing legislation and policy, his comment brought home to me the importance of collecting material on this topic.

That said, anyone who is interested in using the portion of our collections related to earthquakes, building codes and disaster relief law and policy may want to start with some of the volumes listed below. While we’re on the subject, readers on this topic might also be inspired to prepare for future earthquakes. There’s several Great ShakeOut preparation exercises to follow. Virginia has the Great Southeast ShakeOut; there’s the California website; there’s a list of Great ShakeOut exercises in other jurisdictions; and you can always practice your ability to drop, cover, and hold on.

“3.11” shinsai hōmu Q&A / Tōkyō Bengoshikai Hōyūkai Higashi Nihon Daishinsai Fukkō Shien Tokubetsu Iinkai hen.

Complaint regarding the Canterbury Earthquake (Building Act) Order 2011 (SR 2011 / 311) : report of the Regulations Review Committee, fiftieth Parliament (Hon Maryan Street, Chairperson).

Disaster Law

Hisai shigaichi fukkō tokubetsu sochihō no kaisetsu.

Hitḥadshut ʻironit : (pinui u-vinui – ʻibui beniyah – T.m.a. 38)

The international law of disaster relief / ed. by David Caron.

Kigyō no tame no shinsai, fukkō hōritsu sōdan : Higashi Nihon Daishinsai o fumaete.

Ramseyer, J. Mark. Why power companies build nuclear reactors on fault lines: the case of Japan.

A review of building codes and mitigation efforts to help minimize the costs associated with natural disasters: hearing before the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of Representatives, One Hundred Twelfth Congress, second session, July 24, 2012.

Shinsai hōmu Q and A: kigyō taiō no jitsumu / by Arai Masaru et al.

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