Abstract

A Board of Inquiry was appointed by the Governor of California to investigate the damage, particularly to bridges and freeway structures, caused by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The Governor wanted to know not only what happened, but how to prevent such destruction in the future. The Board identified three essential challenges that must be addressed by the citizens of California, if they expect a future adequately safe from earthquakes: (1) ensure that earthquake risks posed by new construction are acceptable; (2) identify and correct unacceptable seismic safety conditions in existing structures; and (3) develop and implement actions that foster the rapid, effective, and economic response to and recovery from damaging earthquakes. The Governor issued an Executive Order implementing the principal Board recommendations that all state-owned and -operated structures are to be seismically safe and that important structures are to maintain their function after earthquakes. The Seismic Safety Commission has evaluated the response of state agencies to the Order and found performance generally to be good, but variable. Inadequate funding is the most serious and the most difficult for the agencies to address internally, as are legislative capital budgeting processes that are cumbersome. Agencies were encouraged to identify single administrators responsible for seismic safety to assure management accountability, rather than the generally diffuse responsibility found in most agencies. The Board, Governor, and Commission all concluded that, while much progress has been made during the past two decades in reducing earthquake risks, much more awaits doing. More aggressive efforts to mitigate the consequences of future, certain earthquakes are needed if one of the most fundamental of responsibilities of government is to be fulfilled—to provide for the public safety.

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