This site was developed with support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency

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What is mitigation?

Earthquake hazard mitigation involves protecting the built environment — and the people who live there — against earthquake damages. That can take many forms: designing and constructing new buildings and systems to resist earthquake shaking; strengthening existing structures; or avoiding building in certain especially hazardous areas. Earthquake-resistant structures and systems reduce direct damages, decrease deaths and injuries, and help avoid associated negative economic and social consequences. Earthquake hazard mitigation also involves educating people: those who will be economically and socially affected by earthquake damages, and those who can beneficially change public policy or institutional practices-at the local, regional, or national level.

In the last 50 years, engineers and scientists have made great progress in understanding how and why structures are damaged in earthquakes and in developing ways to reduce or avoid those damages. Too often, however, this information has not made it into the hands of the people who need it-homeowners, educators, building design professionals, business executives, emergency managers, community planners, and elected officials. All mitigation has as its goal safe communities in which people can live and work without being unduly affected by natural and technological disasters.

It has been shown that it costs less to reduce potential damages before they happen than to pay to repair them afterwards. It certainly causes less human suffering. So it is good policy to construct facilities worldwide to resist earthquakes, with good quality designs, building materials, and construction practices. In regions of high earthquake risk, it is also good policy to retrofit vulnerable existing structures. Mitigation can provide high benefits with low costs.

The financial burdens that result from earthquake damages are borne by individuals, businesses, communities, state and federal governments-by all of us in one way or the other-so it is both good business and good government to reduce potential losses. Yet in many places mitigation is not routinely done, for many social, economic, and political reasons. Some of the information presented here will help Mitigation Center users understand obstacles in their own communities and work around them to reduce earthquake losses.

How to use this site

The resources of the Mitigation Center are found in six broad categories:

  • Policy and Regulations (Codes, Incentives, Insurance, Planning, Resilience)
  • Structures (Retrofit, Nonstructural, Steel, Timber, Concrete, Masonry)
  • Lifelines
  • Educational Materials (Residents, Students, Businesses)
  • Case Studies (Best Practices, Earthquake Scenarios)
  • Image Gallery
Alternatively, you can browse by audience.
It is also possible to find the information according to mitigation activity, for example, building codes, land use planning, or risk communication. Many resources are also available here in Spanish.