Seismic Resilience Observatory



The Resilience Observatory project builds on the acclaimed multi-decade and multi-disciplinary EERI Learning From Earthquakes (LFE) program but it expands the work of EERI as a reconnaissance leader to include a new vision and strategy for exploring and measuring resilience of communities after damaging earthquakes.

The Resilience Observatory goals are to guide earthquake reconnaissance to maximize resilience learning relevant to the U.S.; to conduct post-earthquake reconnaissance efforts focused on seismic resilience; to develop methods for systematic data collection, archiving, and dissemination of the findings using appropriate IT tools.

This project began with funding through the National Science Foundation Award #1235573. Expected outcomes of this project include:

  • An expanded LFE reconnaissance approach that will include seismic resilience observations that will enable the most rapid advances in thinking, simulation, and implementation about resilience in the U.S.;
  • Team reconnaissance missions that use a multi-disciplinary approach to make observations about community resilience;
  • Training opportunities for early-career researchers;
  • Improved IT resources for earthquake reconnaissance and data archiving;
  • Maintenance and operation of web-based clearinghouses for major events, thereby providing rapid access to developing information worldwide and serving as long-term archive of resilience observations.
  • Advances in knowledge on earthquake-resilient communities that ultimately will lead to greater safety and security in U.S. communities threatened by earthquakes.

The NSF grant began in 2013 and concluded in 2016. The activities conducted under the grant are described below. With the initial grant completed, the LFE Executive Committee continues to explore how resilience reconnaissance is integrated into the Learning from Earthquakes program.

Leadership Team

The NSF award was led by the EERI Resilience Panel and coordinated by EERI staff:

Resilience Panel:

  • Laurie Johnson, Laurie Johnson Consulting & Research (Co-Chair)
  • Rob Olshansky, University of Illinois (Co-Chair)
  • Ibrahim Almufti, Arup
  • Stephanie Chang, University of British Columbia
  • Leonardo Dueñas-Osorio, Rice University
  • Scott Miles, Western Washington University
  • Lori Peek, Colorado State University
  • Chris Poland, Chris D. Poland Consulting Engineer
  • Nathan Wood, USGS
  • Yu Xiao, Texas A&M University
  • Ken Elwood, University of Auckland (LFE Chair & Liaison to Panel)


  • Jay Berger, EERI
  • Heidi Tremayne, EERI
  • Marjorie Greene, EERI (now retired)
  • Davide Martinelli, Polytechnic of Turin & EERI Intern
  • Shizza Fatima, EERI Intern

Resilience Reconnaissance Framework

The project developed a Framework for Resilience Reconnaissance. The primary goal of the Framework is to provide guidance for earthquake reconnaissance teams but also for individual researchers who want to observe, document, and measure community resilience through field investigation and data collection in the months and years following a major earthquake.

A secondary goal of the project is to optimize data collection efforts and encourage data gathering that is consistent across different events, enabling cross case-study comparison.

The Framework for Resilience Reconnaissance provides recommendations on what to observe over time to:

  1. understand the overall performance of systems within a community after a major earthquake,
  2. identify critical elements that drive system performance,
  3. describe interdependences between systems, and
  4. determine transformative changes enacted to mitigate possible future disasters.

To reflect the systemic nature of a community, the Framework considers the five primary community systems to be (1) natural environment, (2) built environment, (3) social, (4) institutional, and (5) economic systems. The Framework further identifies multiple subsystems associated with each systems and supports data collection with sets of questions, data examples, and data collection timelines.


Nepal Resilience Reconnaissance

Resilience reconnaissance missions are part of a pilot test of the Resilience Reconnaissance Framework developed by the project.

For more information about the Nepal Earthquake Response, visit EERI’s virtual clearinghouse website:


Napa Business Resilience Case Study

The Resilience Observatory decided to conduct a resilience study for the South Napa Earthquake that occurred on August 24, 2014. The study was aimed at measuring and studying business resilience in region impacted by the earthquake.

A team of experts developed a survey that was delivered to businesses to document problems, issues and strategies behind recovery. To view the LIVE survey, visit the SurveyMonkey website at this link:

Working Group:

  • Ibrahim Almufti, Associate, Structural Engineer, ARUP
  • Cynthia Kroll, Chief Economist, Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG)
  • Mike Mieler, Postdoctoral Researcher, Johns Hopkins University
  • Anne Wein, Operations Research Analyst, United States Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Yu Xiao , Associate Professor, Texas A&M University, Dept of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning

The Resilience Panel used this case study to better understand what measures can be used to understand business resilience, and the resulting survey became a template that can be implemented after future earthquakes. Learn more about the ongoing efforts of the Business Resilience Survey Working Group.


Outcomes from this pilot study are posted on the South Napa Earthquake Virtual Clearinghouse website.

New Zealand Data Management Case Study

In March 2014, EERI sent an interdisciplinary research team to New Zealand to study issues related to Canterbury’s recovery from the 2010-2011 earthquake sequence. The reconnaissance effort was the first case study for the Resilience Observatory project.

The EERI New Zealand team was led by Scott Miles (M. EERI, 2009), University of Washington (formerly Western Washington University), and included Chris Poland (M. EERI, 1978); Liesel Ritchie (M. EERI, 2012), Natural Hazards Center; Yu Xiao (M. EERI, 2011), Texas A&M University; and Nick Hedley (M. EERI, 2014), Simon Fraser University.

The aim of the New Zealand case study was to observe and understand how stakeholders in New Zealand were measuring, monitoring, and acting upon data-driven indicators of recovery after the Canterbury earthquakes.

The team interviewed a wide range of decision-makers and researchers. They found that a large variety of data are being collected as part of the recovery, but it does not appear the available data was significantly contributing to ongoing decision making. Additionally, the large volume of data is making it challenging for organizations to analyze and interpret it for decision-making.

This research further highlights the necessity of facilitating the analysis of existing data, promoting access to data that can be compared across disasters, and the need for specific guidance on what data should be collected by researchers.