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GeoHazards International

GeoHazards International (GHI) is a California based non-profit that brings the developed world’s best practices in earthquake and natural disaster safety to the developing world. It was founded in 1991 by geologist Brian Tucker. Tucker was raised in California and as the state geologist, he was acutely aware of both the hazards of earthquake as well as all that California had done – legally, socially and culturally – to mitigate such hazards.

In contrast, people in poor and emerging economies are far more vulnerable to natural disasters. Urban populations are rapidly growing and communities lack safety expertise. Further, basic needs often take priority over planning.

During his PhD research, Tucker traveled extensively in Tajikistan and Central Asia and was surprised and concerned by the vulnerability of the buildings he found there. After his return to California, he began to consider how advanced mitigation strategies could be thoughtfully translated and put to use in the most vulnerable parts of the world. Tucker’s approach to this problem would become the GHI model.

GHI takes a holistic approach to disaster mitigation that includes partnering with and training local masons, engineers and architects to retrofit buildings. A demand for these services is created via public awareness campaigns, developing school safety programs, and ensuring emergency resources, such as hospitals, will withstand natural disasters. GHI attempts to support a country’s engagement of seismic hazards from all angles – the same way California does.

GHI also makes a point to work on multiple scales. Some of GHI’s disaster-mitigation strategies include small, village-level interventions, such as retrofitting vulnerable schools and conducting community outreach programs. In addition, GHI implements top-down solutions, such as creating structural engineering programs for universities and drafting national models for cost-effective seismic retrofitting of homes, schools, and hospitals.

GHI also works to map future disasters to raise public awareness and stimulate action. They calculate the percentage of damage in different regions of a city based on the strength of the earthquake and the dominant building types. Then they describe in layman’s terms what life would be like in the city immediately after a disaster (as well as one week, one month, and one year later). This assessment is published in a major local newspaper to garner public interest in seismic upgrades. The hope is that by galvanizing public attention, political and economic leaders will be incentivized to act in advance of a disaster, rather than after.

GHI has been a leader in the field of disaster and resilience for decades, chiefly because they approach it holistically: past, present and future.

We were fortunate enough to speak with Brian Tucker and Kenneth Kornberg of GHI on Social Design Insights. Listen to the episode below.

18 | Unifying First and Third World Strategies for Disaster Mitigation


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2017 is "Sorry" by Comfort Fit. The break music is "Mr. Zebra" by Tori Amos from her album "A Tori Amos Collection - Tales of a Librarian."