Research for Emergency Aftershock Response (GCRF-REAR)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Geosciences


Earthquakes have resulted in over three-quarters of a million deaths already in this century, and economic losses of more than a quarter of a trillion US dollars since 1980 making them by far the most destructive of the natural hazards.

Science cannot predict earthquakes and current research indicates that progress in identifying where near future earthquakes will happen (so-called earthquake hotspots) is likely to be slow. However, the work of emergency services and humanitarian organisations deploying immediately after a destructive earthquake is always disrupted and endangered by aftershocks a set of earthquakes, which are focused in space and time, are well understood scientifically and which can be forecast probabilistically. Work by this team, both academics and humanitarian partners, during the Nepal earthquake sequence of 2015 has shown that this understanding has operational impact and can help plan emergency response. In this project we will scope out the requirements for operationalising the technical, scientific, logistical, reporting and interpretation requirements so that fully operational aftershock forecasts, coordinated and led by a team from the University of Edinburgh, can become a part of the international response every major earthquake globally.

The global revolution in mobile phone technology, and the formidable array of sensors they all contain, can play a vital part. Not only in contributing to the high resolution measurement of the size and location of the aftershocks, but they can also act as pathways for the two-way transfer of information and advice. Experience has shown that inaccurate and misleading can confound the work of early responders, Mobile smart phones are a potentially important way of standardising information and developing 'shock education' in best practice earthquake resilient behaviour (for example duck-and-cover) which has been shown to improve survival during earthquakes.

Integration of science and technology requires public engagement at scale. The best science is helpless without being adopted and scientists are ill-equipped to understand the barriers and enabler to uptake and the social, cultural and political pressure points which determine the scale of engagement and the ultimate impact. In REAR we deploy an world-leading, interdisciplinary team of committed experts in social science, in history, in cultural research and in education to complement and collaborate with the scientists and computing specialists to develop and a holistic approach to preparation for aftershock response.

To ensure the sharp operational focus and relevance to real world problems, we have again teamed with Concern Worldwide. Concern work in 27 of the world's poorest countries and have a long standing relationship with the leaders of the REAR team and demonstrated commitment to integration of academic assistance. They are fully committed to this endeavour and will commit their DRR advisor, Dom Hunt, for up to 1 month during the project and the Director of their Emergency Unit, Dominic Crowley, will sit on our international advisory board. Concern will advise on all aspects of the work and accompany us in field visits to their in country operations almost certainly in Nepal.

REAR will deploy a world-class team to bring established and developing science and new technology to a clearly defined and necessary aspect of research into the most destructive natural hazard. It is vital that this research is funded.

Planned Impact

REAR is a foundational project which aims to develop a world-leading multi-disciplinary team and to scope out the scientific, technological, sociological and humanities research which is will be required to provide smartphone-based high-resolution measurements of seismic shaking so that we might better target resources at retrofitting, rebuilding and planning to target resources at the most vulnerable existing construction and to avoid building on new sits which have high seismic vulnerability. We will also scope out the possibility of using engagement with the CitiSeisApp to encourage the development of disaster aware communities.

The impact of the project will be in developing national and international networks to alert humanitarian agencies and international organisations to the potential for high resolution examination and assessment of the ground conditions which determine the distribution of damage experienced in destructive earthquakes. This will allow them to consider contributing to future projects in which these possibilities will be made a reality.

Our main project partners, Concern (see letter of support), are prime movers in this work. They involvement will keep us focused on the problems, such as site selection for rebuilding, which are most important to them as they help reconstruct after earthquake.

We will up-scale the lessons learned. We will attend and present at appropriate humanitarian conferences constantly striving to expand our impact footprint.

We will reach out to other NGOs. We will visit the head offices of a wide range of UK and Irish NGO's and gauge their willingness to contribute to developing of and participating in the future proposal which we are assembling and we will work hard to engage their participation in subsequent projects.

We will use our contacts, particularly in Concern US to make contact with the major international relief and development agencies UNISDR, UNDP and OCHA and the Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Our NGO widening outreach will begin with the START.

We will engage with the media, at home and abroad, to ensure our work receives the maximum coverage and therefore the maximum impact.


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