What is the mission of the Learning from Earthquakes Program?

The mission of the Learning from Earthquakes (LFE) Program is to accelerate and increase learning from earthquake-induced disasters that affect the natural, built, social and political environments worldwide.

How does the Learning from Earthquakes Program achieve its mission?

LFE responds to earthquakes worldwide by conducting earthquake reconnaissance and disseminating products and lessons learned. LFE's earthquake response consists of:

  • Establishing Virtual Clearinghouse Websites: Reconnaissance products, including webinar recordings, reports, journal papers, data, and photos, are compiled on virtual earthquake clearinghouse websites. These websites serve as a long-term archives of lessons learned from earthquakes. View sites for over 300 earthquakes in the LFE Reconnaissance Archive.
  • Activating the Virtual Earthquake Response Team (VERT): Beginning in 2015, LFE formalized a virtual earthquake reconnaissance program aimed at rapidly assessing impacts of damaging earthquakes through review of news articles and social media. The Virtual Earthquake Reconnaissance Team (VERT) provides opportunities for graduate students, early career professionals, and young faculty to be involved in post-earthquake reconnaissance. Learn More about the Virtual Earthquake Reconnaissance Team.
  • Sending EERI reconnaissance teams to investigate earthquakes: Through LFE, EERI sends multi-disciplinary reconnaissance teams of earthquake risk mitigation experts to investigate earthquake impacts. Reconnaissance teams travel to earthquake-impacted areas, document important observations, and identify topics in need of follow-up research. Increasingly, LFE has focused on capturing lessons for community resilience through earthquake reconnaissance. LFE has developed a framework for resilience reconnaissance and has begun conducting follow-up reconnaissance trips months and years after damaging earthquakes. 
  • Coordinating international reconnaissance teams: In addition to the LFE program, there are many related organizations and private firms that also conduct earthquake reconnaissance programs. As the number of organizations that conduct reconnaissance continue to increase, EERI has led the coordination of international reconnaissance efforts. This coordination fosters collaboration, reduces duplication of efforts, and helps to minimize the burden of international reconnaissance teams on local contacts in earthquake-impacted areas.
  • Participating in physical clearinghouses: For earthquakes in the US, EERI provides staffing support to operate a physical clearinghouse. A physical clearinghouse is a place where field investigators can gather to share observations and coordinate with others.

More information about how EERI responds to earthquakes can be found in the Protocols for Operations of the LFE Program (PDF).

Who manages the Learning from Earthquakes Program?

Learning from Earthquakes is a program of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute and is managed by a committee of experts with extensive experience conducting earthquake reconnaissance. Meet the LFE Executive Committee Members:

eduardo miranda profilephoto

Eduardo Miranda,

Mike Mieler

Mike Mieler,

Judith Mitrani-Reiser

Judy Mitrani-Reiser,
Board Liaison

erica fischer

Erica Fischer,
VERT Co-Chair

manny hakha

Manny Hakhamaneshi,
VERT Co-Chair

Yu Xiao

Yu Xiao,
Business Resilience

Thalia Anagnos

Thalia Anagnos,
Travel Study Chair

craig davis

Craig Davis

ken elwood

Ken Elwood

David Friedman

David Friedman

david frost

David Frost

Jeff Hunt

Jeff Hunt

Charlie Huyck

Charlie Huyck

Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Rob Olshansky

Rob Olshansky

RWilson headshot

Rick Wilson


More details about the committee’s charge and role can be found in the Committee Charge and Organization (PDF).

Who Are the LEarning from EArthquakes program Partners?

EERI (LFE) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) share responsibility under a federal post-earthquake investigation plan to manage reconnaissance efforts in the United States. EERI has primary responsibility in international earthquakes. LFE collaborates with many other partners who conduct earthquake reconnaissance around the world.


Organization    Country Website
usgs United States Geological Survey USA https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/
fema Federal Earthquake Management Agency USA https://www.fema.gov/
nsf National Science Foundation USA https://www.nsf.gov/
image10 National Institute of Standards and Technology USA https://www.nist.gov/
image9 Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance USA http://www.geerassociation.org/
peer Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center USA http://peer.berkeley.edu/
cech California Earthquake Clearinghouse USA http://californiaeqclearinghouse.org/
image13 Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team UK https://www.istructe.org/resources-centre/technical-topic-areas/eefit
image15 Sociedad Mexicana de Ingenieria Sismica Mexico http://www.smis.org.mx/
image12 Applied Technology Council USA https://atcouncil.org/
seanc Structural Engineers Association of Northern California USA https://www.seaonc.org/
image16 Structural Engineers Association of Southern California USA https://seaosc.org/
nset National Society for Earthquake Technology Nepal http://www.nset.org.np/nset2012/
nzsee New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineering New Zealand http://www.nzsee.org.nz/
gns GNS Science New Zealand https://www.gns.cri.nz/
quakecore Quake Core New Zealand http://www.quakecore.nz/
eucentre EUCENTRE Italy http://www.eucentre.it/
relius ReLUIS Italy http://www.reluis.it/
dpri Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto Japan http://www.dpri.kyoto-u.ac.jp/
nied National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience (NIED) Japan http://www.bosai.go.jp/e/Col221:Col321
image18 Institute of Social Science Japan http://www.iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp/
sac Institute of Social Safety Science Japan http://isss.jp.net/
iiees International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology Iran http://www.iiees.ac.ir/en/
ncree National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering Taiwan https://www.ncree.org/
ncdr National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction Taiwan https://www.ncdr.nat.gov.tw/
agies Asociacion Guatemalteca de Ingenieria Estructural y Sismica Guatemala https://www.agies.org/
cigiden Centro de Investigacion para la Gestion Integrada del Riesgo de Desastres Chile http://cigiden.cl/es/
asce ASCE Infrastructure Resilience Division USA http://www.asce.org/infrastructure-resilience/infrastructure-resilience-division/
  Disaster Research Center USA https://www.drc.udel.edu/
nhc Natural Hazards Center USA https://hazards.colorado.edu/
jsce Japan Society of Civil Engineers Japan http://www.jsce-int.org/
aij Architectural Institute of Japan Japan https://www.aij.or.jp/aijhome.htm
edim Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Germany https://www.cedim.de/
nicee NICEE India https://www.nicee.org/
aci American Concrete Institute USA https://www.concrete.org/committees/directoryofcommittees/acommitteehome.aspx?committee_code=C0013300
caee Canadian Association of Earthquake Engineering Canada http://caee.ca/
aees Australian Earthquake Engineering Society (AEES) Australia http://www.aees.org.au/

What are the impacts of the Learning from Earthquakes Program?

LFE has supported over 80 reconnaissance teams and archived information for over 300 earthquakes in 50 countries leading to advances in Structural Engineering, Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering, and Social Science. Read more about the impacts of LFE in The Learning from Earthquakes Program: A Brief Synopsis of Major Contributions (PDF).

When was the Learning from Earthquakes Program established?

The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute has, since its inception in 1949, conducted post-earthquake investigations for the purpose of improving the science and practice of earthquake engineering and earthquake hazard reduction. In 1973, EERI formally initiated the Learning from Earthquakes (LFE) Program.

Other Questions?

Please contact EERI LFE Program Manager, Maggie Ortiz-Millan at maggie@eeri.org with other questions related to LFE.

LFE at 50

LFE 50 logo color text

In 2023, EERI is marking the 50th anniversary of the formal establishment of our Learning From Earthquakes Program. Read on for the first in a series of Earthquake Reconnaissance Retrospectives we are sharing this year to celebrate the program’s 50th year and showcase the lessons learned over the past decades. We’re marking the anniversaries of selected major earthquakes by highlighting resources from the LFE archives and sharing recollections from EERI members. For more on the history, impacts, and future of earthquake reconnaissance, join us in celebrating LFE at 50 at the 2023 EERI Annual Meeting.

LFE Earthquake Reconnaissance Retrospective #1: Kobe, January 17, 1995

EERI Newsletter KobeIn January 1995, EERI and the Institute for Social Safety Science of Japan (ISSS) co-sponsored the 4th US-Japan Urban Disaster Reduction workshop that was to begin on January 17th in Osaka, Japan, about 30 km east of Kobe. The day the workshop was set to begin, participants were awakened early by very strong shaking (one participant likened it to a dog with the building in its mouth, angrily shaking it back and forth). The shaking turned out to be the devastating Hyogo-ken Nanbu (Kobe) earthquake disaster. The workshop organizers canceled all the sessions and sent participants to Kobe to record immediate observations of the earthquake damage. EERI members recall walking toward ever more distressing scenes of destruction. Their observations formed the basis for the EERI Kobe Reconnaissance report. Below, Craig Comartin (M.EERI 1987), one of the EERI members attending the workshop, reflects on the earthquake impacts and recounts major lessons learned from the earthquake.

Kobe 1995: A personal account by Craig Comartin 

The most devastating earthquake to hit Japan since the 1923 Tokyo earthquake occurred at 5:46 A.M. local time on January 17, 1995 exactly a year after the Northridge earthquake. Over 5,000 people were reported killed, more than 26,000 people were injured, and over 300,000 people were left homeless. At the time of the earthquake, about 40 American engineers, scientists, and government officials were in Osaka, 30 km east of Kobe, for a joint U.S.-Japan Workshop on Urban Earthquake Hazard Reduction, co-sponsored by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) and the Japan Institute of Social Safety Science (ISSS), and funded by National Science Foundation (NSF). The workshop participants immediately undertook preliminary post-earthquake reconnaissance efforts. I was part of the US side in this effort. I was also fortunate to return to Kobe several times during the ensuing months and years.

Kobe FireThe Great Hanshin Earthquake, as it is also known, is an important record of the effects of earthquakes on modern high density cities and surrounding areas.

So what did we learn from the Kobe earthquake?

Much of the damage deaths and injuries were caused by a conflagration of fires that burned quickly through the densely populated (approximately three times more dense than Oakland, California as an example) and the light wood frame construction typical of Japanese houses, The making of plastic shoes was a cottage industry in Kobe. The materials used were highly flammable and most households used kerosene heaters that ignited them during the earthquake. Additionally we witnessed the now proverbial importance of housing displaced individuals and families after the event.

Kobe today is not the city it was prior to the earthquake. The economic impacts of the earthquake were substantial. The port of Kobe has never fully recovered. Part of this is due to the critical transportation corridor between Osaka and Kobe that was severely disrupted with bridge and highway interchange structures collapses that took years to repair or replace.

The 7.2 magnitude event occurred on a strike slip fault that had a bilateral rupture of approximately 40 km. Liquefaction induced subsidence, and ground displacement were pervasive In the reclaimed lands along the margins of Osaka bay, Quay walls failed throughout the port. These factors contributed significantly to the damage of port facilities.

kobe building damageCity planning even in the United States is a chaotic process at best. There are city planning guidelines in Japan, but these are often not enforced systematically. In Kobe, poor planning, and development contributed to the effects of the earthquake. Streets and Kobe are very narrow hampering, emergency vehicles, including ambulances, and fire fighting equipment.

Japanese construction practice for buildings contributed to the severe damage or collapse of both commercial and residential buildings. For example, Japanese houses typically have clay tile roofs and dry rot, and pest infestation is widespread. Building codes at the time of the earthquake allowed practices that contributed to the poor performance of new construction of relatively large commercial buildings.

Railways are a vital component of transportation in Japan. Both the Shinkansen (high speed train) and other railroads were severely damaged and closed. Kansai international airport was located 30 km from the epicenter on a man-made island. The island settled over a foot but no damage was found in the airport facilities themselves, and the runway remained operational. Overhead utilities, comprising, electrical and telecommunications, fared well. In contrast, buried utilities, including wastewater, gas, and freshwater suffered extensive damage throughout Kobe.

Several major hospitals were extensively damaged. However, many doctors’ offices remained open and allowed for treatment of relatively minor injuries. It was also noted that many people having lost their home, possessions, and neighborhood communities suffered from PTSD.

These lessons learned from the Kobe earthquake have been captured and preserved in the LFE earthquake archive. The current LFE database is a valuable tool for professionals and academics. In my opinion, this program defines EERI‘s purpose and soul, notwithstanding, mission statements, and goals on record. It is our responsibility to improve it with continuous effective curation. Several years ago, along with other former officers and directors of EERI, I made a pledge to support LFE. Today, all members can contribute at any level. This allows all members, including those at an early stage of their career development,to contribute. You will be receiving more information in the near future about ways to contribute to LFE in its 50th year. I sincerely hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity to maintain and improve the learning from the Learning from Earthquakes program at EERI.

Craig Comartin
M.EERI 1987; President 2005-2006

Craig Comartin







Photos, top to bottom: excerpt from EERI's February 1995 newsletter; rail facility damage and fires in Kobe; building damage in Kobe; Craig Comartin atop UC Berkeley's Sather Tower.

More information

The LFE earthquake page for Kobe showcases a range of information and resources about the earthquake, including newsletter articles, reconnaissance reports, photo slide collections, Spectra articles, and more. Here are a few highlights: