Measuring state-level policy activity for earthquake resilience

An article I co-authored recently came out on the topic of activity and coverage of state-level policies to improve earthquake resilience (mitigation was emphasized). The study catalogued “all” of the state-level legislation and executive orders either directly relevant to seismic risk reduction or clearly related. For the most part, these were determined by reference in each state’s hazard mitigation plan (something that is required for plan approval). Three general analyses were done. One was to see if increasing earthquake risk is associated with increasing policy activity. The second was to quantitatively compare the relatively activity across the states. And lastly was to try understand the sequence in which states attempt to address seismic issues from a policy perspective. Two of the riskiest states come out with relatively low policy activity and coverage–Washington and Alaska. The data is dated now–for example Oregon has passed multiple resolutions and bills on the subject of earthquake since the compilation of the data for this study. However, in general the trend remains, as far as I know. I think the results do surprise people–particularly that Washington is not more aggressive. But what’s important to remember is each state (or jurisdiction) takes a different (set of) approach(es) to improving resilience. In comparing Oregon and Washington, Washington does not have the same political and public culture when it comes to using legislation to address issues. One, much more activity is left to local jurisdictions (Washington is a home rule state). Two, as I know from experience, much of the work in Washington is done at the programmatic level and even by passionate volunteers (e.g., that state’s seismic safety committee, which unlike California and Oregon and others states, does not have a mandate to exist). So I would definitely not argue that Washington takes earthquake resilience less seriously than Oregon. That said, I do think–know–that state-level electeds in Washington have much less interest in addressing seismic issues through legislation or executive order. This is unfortunate of course because improving resilience takes a diversity of approaches.

You can grab the article here .

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