By Denis McClean
Pavia – The GEM Foundation today launched OpenQuake, a web-based platform which allows access to a wide variety of sources on earthquakes, enabling cutting-edge risk assessment and the sharing of information with a broad community. It is the fruit of an open source collaboration by over 300 experts across the world.
The head of UNISDR, Margareta Wahlström, hailed the OpenQuake launch as a “major milestone for GEM and the community of earthquake hazard and risk experts” while noting that the risk information needs to be applied “and we need the engagement of the scientific and engineering community to ensure that happens and that the information is communicated in an accessible way to policymakers.”
She said that understanding risk is the basis of any disaster risk reduction (DRR) policy and action. It is a major priority for the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), the global blueprint for DRR currently being updated for adoption at the Third World Conference on DRR in Sendai, Japan, which will be held in March www.wcdrr.org
Ms. Wahlstrom said that GEM can play a valuable role in supporting HFA implementation, as a global public-private partnership, dedicated to developing, communicating and sharing earthquake hazard and risk information freely, openly and globally.
“Loss of life and economic loss from earthquakes can only be mitigated or prevented through DRR efforts that include urban planning, improved regulation through building codes and compliance with those codes. This requires sound technical information to support the financial investments and governance required to reduce risk in the long term.”
Ms. Wahlström appealed for more risk information that is “multi-hazard, multi-sectoral and includes socio-economic vulnerability as an underlying risk driver.” She praised GEM’s suite of products for including tools for assessing socio-economic vulnerability which should become a standard part of all risk assessments.
She saw a particular role for GEM to strengthen its collaboration with UNISDR and other entities under the revised HFA. Examples include tools to assess exposure, hazard, building vulnerability, community resilience and assistance in developing the capacity of member countries and other stakeholders.
Dr. John Schneider, GEM Foundation Governing Board Chairman, said that GEM will provide tools to support DRR through cost-benefit analysis of building retrofits, risk reduction potential of building codes, improved code compliance, and risk information and analysis tools to support UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign.
Anselm Smolka, Secretary-General of GEM Foundation, said: “Two major areas we have prioritized are risk identification in megacities where risks are most concentrated and cascading failures such as those which were documented as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. Our vision of a world that is resilient to earthquakes will get a significant boost from the OpenQuake platform.”
Dr. Schneider said GEM looked forward to closer collaboration with UNISDR and to broaden participation in the overall effort to reduce the impact of earthquakes by reaching out to the private sector and engaging all countries with earthquake risk particularly developing countries.