Making a difference: Stories of successful seismic safety advocates

Robert B. Olshansky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Promoting seismic safety is difficult. Earthquakes are not high on the political agenda, because they occur infrequently and are overshadowed by more immediate, visible issues. Nevertheless, seismic safety policies do get adopted and implemented by state and local governments. One important reason is the presence of effective advocates. This paper summarizes a study that reviewed eight examples of successful seismic safety advocacy throughout the United States. These stories exhibit a number of common themes. All of them show the importance of persistence (and patience) and the value of seeking partnerships. Personal contacts are crucial. The cases also show the importance of post-earthquake windows of opportunity. In several of the cases, community actions for seismic safety emanate from concerns about school safety. Finally, several of the cases demonstrate how initial efforts and the U.S. Geological Survey can catalyze substantial community actions. The important lesson is that individuals can make a difference, especially if they are persistent, yet patient; have a clear message; understand the big picture; and work with others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-464
Number of pages24
JournalEarthquake Spectra
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geophysics


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