News & Events

Feb. Blog-- Understanding Earthquake Risk

02/18/2020
UNDERSTANDING EARTHQUAKE RISK
by David Teasdale, P.E., Principal Engineer & VP of Engineering Services
Earthquakes, explosions, and other ground vibrations often generate interest in the engineering and insurance worlds because they offer a chance to see structures behave differently. Further, since understanding the response of a structure to vibrations requires more math and specialization, it can have a little more aura of mystery; however, it does not have to be that way. 
Building codes are based primarily on statistical risk of a damaging event, and in the United States, we subscribe to an elastic strain energy theory for earthquake risk assessment. (Yes, there is more than one theory for the predominant cause of earthquakes in an area.) In the elastic strain concept, the rock volumes on either side of a fault rub against each other and bind until the strain becomes large enough to cause slip. The sudden slip and jump in movement produces the vibrational wave that propagates out from the fault. (Earthquakes are described with a focus, or point of origin, but the vibrational wave actually emanates out from a line corresponding to the length of the moving fault.) This earthquake mechanism lends itself well to measurement, study, and correlations between past earthquakes and predictions for the future. 
The risk of damage, however, is based on much more, including the type of building, distance from the ruptured fault, depth of the ruptured fault, magnitude, duration of shaking, and to some extent the frequency of vibration. ...
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