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National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program

A research and implementation partnership

 About Us


The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) was established by the U.S. Congress when it passed the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, Public Law (PL) 95–124. At the time of its creation, Congress' stated purpose for NEHRP was "to reduce the risks of life and property from future earthquakes in the United States through the establishment and maintenance of an effective earthquake hazards reduction program." In establishing NEHRP, Congress recognized that earthquake-related losses could be reduced through improved design and construction methods and practices, land use controls and redevelopment, prediction techniques and early-warning systems, coordinated emergency preparedness plans, and public education and involvement programs.

Since NEHRP's creation, it has become the Federal government's coordinated long-term nationwide program to reduce risks to life and property in the United States that result from earthquakes. Since NEHRP's 1977 beginnings, Congress has periodically reviewed and reauthorized NEHRP (1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1994, 1997, 2000, and 2004.) While changes have occurred in program details in some of the reauthorizations, the four basic NEHRP goals remain unchanged:

  • Develop effective practices and policies for earthquake loss reduction and accelerate their implementation.
  • Improve techniques for reducing earthquake vulnerabilities of facilities and systems.
  • Improve earthquake hazards identification and risk assessment methods, and their use.
  • Improve the understanding of earthquakes and their effects.

In its initial NEHRP authorization in 1977, and in subsequent reauthorizations, Congress has recognized that several key Federal agencies can contribute to earthquake mitigation efforts. Today, there are four primary NEHRP agencies:

Congress completed a thorough review of NEHRP, resulting in the NEHRP Reauthorization Act of 2004, PL 108–360, which the President signed into law on October 25, 2004. Congress recognized that the slow implementation of new mitigation technologies, combined with continued widespread development in areas of high seismic risk, has resulted in rapid, steady increases in societal vulnerabilities to major earthquakes. Potential loss estimates for a large earthquake in a major U.S. urban area now approach $200 billion. (Also see Unofficial Amendment to PL 108–360 PDF 38KB.)

PL 108–360 directed that NEHRP activities be designed to develop effective measures for earthquake hazard reduction; promote the adoption of earthquake hazards reduction measures by government agencies, standards and codes organizations, and others involved in planning and building infrastructure; improve the understanding of earthquakes and their effects through interdisciplinary research; and, develop, operate, and maintain both the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) and the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). In a major new initiative, PL 108–360 also directed that NEHRP support development and application of performance-based seismic design (PBSD).

PL 108–360 levied a new responsibility on NIST to establish an Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction (ACEHR) that will assess scientific and engineering trends; program effectiveness (and consequent need for program revisions); and program management, coordination, and implementation. NIST is working in consonance with the other NEHRP agencies to establish this committee. Congress specifically exempted this new committee from the requirement of Section 14 of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) for all such committees to expire within two years of creation. The 2000 reauthorization of NEHRP similarly established the Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee (SESAC) to provide guidance to USGS on its activities under NEHRP.

PL 108–360 also established the NEHRP Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC). The committee consists of the directors of the four primary program agencies, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The NIST Director chairs the ICC. The ICC oversees NEHRP planning, management, and coordination. It is further responsible for developing and updating the NEHRP strategic plan that established goals and priorities and a management plan that implements the strategic plan. The ICC must also develop and submit a coordinated interagency NEHRP budget and an annual report to Congress that ensures appropriate balance among NEHRP activities. The April 6, 2006 ICC Meeting Summary (PDF 16KB) is available online.

For more information on the events that led up to NEHRP, visit Milestones in Earthquake Research.

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