FEMA updates hazard software

An updated version of disaster-loss estimation software developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is available to help emergency-response officials nationwide better prepare for and recover from earthquakes.

FEMA last month released HAZUS99—a new version of its Hazards US software program—which uses PC-based geographic information system technology to produce detailed maps and analytical reports to estimate and describe a community's or region's potential losses from an earthquake.

The new version is 10 times faster than previous editions and includes database and technical improvements, including the ability to run an earthquake analysis that will produce detailed results in minutes, as opposed to hours. The faster speed enables disaster-response personnel to generate a loss estimate immediately following a disaster and to update the forecast as damage data is gathered in the field following an earthquake.

Methodology improvements include potable water network-analysis capabilities, analysis of multiple fault segments, 3-D fault modeling, the latest estimates for bridge damage and the ability to save work in progress.

Emergency managers from all 50 states and the U.S. territories have been trained to use the program. State and local governments use HAZUS99 to predict the number of deaths and economic losses from earthquakes and use those predictions to plan relief efforts.

The HAZUS database contains the size and type of buildings in an area as well as the area's demographic information. The system predicts how the ground will shake during an earthquake; the number of casualties; the number of buildings damaged; the amount of damage done to transportation systems; the disruption to utilities such as water and electricity; the number of homeless people after the earthquake; and the estimated cost of repairs.

HAZUS99 first was tested during the recent 7.1 magnitude earthquake centered in a desert area of Southern California. The software produced accurate estimates of damages, economic losses, possible deaths and injuries, and shelter requirements within three hours, an extremely fast turnaround because the software was not at the site and had to be run remotely, said Claire Drury, HAZUS99 program manager.

"Had that quake occurred in a densely populated region like the Northridge earthquake, which struck the Los Angeles area in 1994, HAZUS99 would have given FEMA essential information to assist in the rapid mobilization of federal resources and to expedite assistance to state and local emergency responders," said Michael Armstrong, FEMA's associate director for mitigation in a statement.

HAZUS initiatives have been launched in the New York metropolitan area; the San Francisco Bay area; North Carolina; Portland, Ore.; and the California Office of Emergency Services.

FEMA developed HAZUS in 1997 under a cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). Preview models for wind and flood disasters should be ready by 2002, and a complete flood and hurricane system is scheduled for rollout between 2004 and 2006, depending on funding, Drury said.

HAZUS99 is available on CD-ROM in three editions for the eastern United States, the central United States and the western United States, and it can be ordered through FEMA's World Wide Web site, www.fema.gov.FEMA provides the program to federal, state and local agencies as well as other public and private organizations free of charge, with distribution handled by the NIBS.

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