The rapid estimation of expected impacts in case of an earthquake is extremely important for emergency managers and first responders. Current near‐real‐time damage assessment methods rely on ground‐motion estimates and exposure or fragility datasets, in some cases integrating the shaking recorded at the site (e.g., from strong‐motion monitoring networks). We propose a method that estimates the expected damages on buildings based on strong‐motion recordings of a seismic event. The damage assessment is based on the maximum drift (interstory) or the displacement, which is estimated by considering in a first approximation the behavior of a specific building typology as a single‐degree‐of‐freedom oscillator. The oscillator is characterized based on the analysis of the building stock and a large number of ambient vibration measurements performed in buildings. A specific damage state occurs when the interstory drift or displacement limits available in the literature for the specific building typology are exceeded. The method, here applied to a case study in northeastern Italy, can be applied to other seismic areas worldwide to provide quick, first‐level estimates of expected damages.

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