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At the core of the Global Earthquake Model is the development of state-of-the-art modeling capabilities and a suite of software tools that can be utilized worldwide for the assessment and communication of earthquake risk. For a more holistic assessment of the scale and consequences of earthquake impacts, a set of methods, metrics, and tools are incorporated into the GEM modelling framework to assess earthquake impact potential beyond direct physical impacts and loss of life. This is because with increased exposure of people, livelihoods, and property to earthquakes, the potential for social and economic impacts of earthquakes cannot be ignored. Not only is it vital to evaluate and benchmark the conditions that lead to adverse earthquake impacts and loss, it is equally important to measure the capacity of populations to respond to damaging events and to provide a set of metrics for priority setting and decision-making.  

The employment of a methodology and workflow necessary for the evaluation of seismic risk that is integrated and holistic begins with the Integrated Risk Modelling Toolkit (IRMT). The IRMT is a QGIS plugin that was developed by the Global Earthquake Model and co-designed by GEM and the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM). The plugin allows users to form an integrated workflow for the construction of metrics used to assess characteristics within societies that affect earthquake risk by providing a GIS-based platform for the construction of indicators that foster comparative assessments. The IRMT accomplishes this by leveraging the QGIS platform to guide the user through the major steps for indicator construction and risk integration. These steps include 1) the selection of variables; 2) data normalization/standardization; 3) weighting and aggregation to produce composite indices; 4) risk integration using OpenQuake risk estimates; and 5) the presentation of the results.

As part of the workflow, the IRMT facilitates the integration of composite indicators of socio-economic characteristics with measures of physical risk (i.e. estimations of human or economic loss) from the OpenQuake-engine (or other sources) to form what is referred to as an integrated risk assessment. Although the tool may be utilized for any type of indicator development, it is encouraged that composite indicators of social vulnerability are developed. Social vulnerability is defined here as characteristics or qualities within social systems that create the potential for harm or loss from damaging hazard events. Given equal exposure to natural threats, such as an earthquake, two groups may vary in their social vulnerability due to their pre-existing socially characteristics where differences according to wealth, gender, race, class, history, and sociopolitical organization influence the patterns of loss, mortality, and the ability to reconstruct following damaging events.

The focus on the development of indicators of social vulnerability, and ultimately integrated risk, will allow researchers, decision-makers, and other relevant stakeholders to:

  • consider loss and damage as part of a dynamic system in which interactions between natural systems and societal factors redistribute risk before an event and redistribute loss after an event
  • mainstream socio-economic vulnerability and resilience in earthquake loss and damage policy discussions
  • evaluate loss and damage taking social factors into account at different time and space scales
  • use risk assessments in benchmarking exercises to monitor trends in earthquake risk over time
  • recognize that both causes and solutions for earthquake loss are found in human, environmental, and built-environmental interactions
  • help decision-makers develop a common dialog that pertains to the factors that they should concentrate on to reduce risk and strengthen resilience.