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Worldwide Projects

GEM relies on and promotes different types of partnerships. Organisations can become partners in the Foundation, governing and steering the effort, but also contribute by setting up independent projects that are aimed at applying the knowledge, resources and tools generated within this collaborative effort across the globe.  

The following examples give you an idea of the range of alliances already been shaped:

Empowering local experts with USAID/OFDA (2011-2014)

From 2011 to 2014 USAID/OFDA supported the GEM Foundation by funding the project Integration of Global and Regional Seismic Risk Modelling Activities. Now that the project has come to an end, we can take stock and look at its impact:

Tools and datasets development

Local knowledge and expertise were incorporated into the 11 global projects that were actively coordinated by the Secretariat and delivered high-quality approaches, datasets and tools. Local experts contributed to important projects such as the historical archive and catalogue, the earthquake consequences database and the ISC-GEM instrumental, the active fault database, the social vulnerability and the exposure database, which were subsequently integrated into the OpenQuake platform for worldwide use. New applications and tools were also created for capacity development and knowledge sharing to facilitate knowledge sharing on GEM tools and resources.

Regional engagement in global processes

Knowledge sharing took place in the context of 4 international technical conferences, where special sessions and presentations spread information on GEM approaches, resources and tools. Hundreds of experts from around the globe enjoyed the events at the 10th US National Conference on Earthquake Engineering, at the Understanding Risk conference, at the III Latin-American Congress of Seismology and at the 2nd European Conference on earthquake engineering, where GEM staff and scientists widely explained tools and methodologies for earthquake risk and prevention.

Review of regional components by regional experts and outreach activities at regional level

A full review of seismic hazard and physical risk global components was undertaken from the second semester of 2013, bringing as a result the publication of the Global Strain Rate Model and the GEM Building taxonomy. The Global Active Faults database and the GFE Subduction Sources report will be likely published by the end of 2014.

Capacity Development

The project enhanced local capacity and promoted exchange of information as well as knowledge in the context of 5 workshops that took place around the globe: South America (Chile and Venezuela, 2011), Central Asia (Germany 2012), North Africa (Tunisia, 2012), Sub-Saharan Africa (South Africa, 2012), South Asia (Nepal, 2013). The workshops brought together almost 200 local experts to share knowledge on the work in their different countries and think about collaboration in hazard and risk assessment in their regions. The local experts received knowledge and hands-on training on GEM tools, resources and approaches for risk assessment.

A new project with USAID/OFDA

With those lessons learnt, we proposed a new project Reducing earthquake risk collaboratively by building capacity and leveraging GEM’s open tools and resources and recently we received the news that also that project is going to be supported. Now that GEM tools and resources exist and are to be openly released at the end of 2014, this Program intends to focus on the following 4 components:

1.    Developing capacity in sub-Saharan Africa for integrated risk assessment

Mitigating and managing seismic risk and making decision-makers aware of the imminent risk that exists for the citizens they represent, requires advanced understanding of physical seismic risk as well as the socio-economic factors that play a role in populations’ ability to cope with earthquake disaster. At present, there is little data, models and knowledge available for integrated seismic risk assessment in sub-Saharan Africa, upon which local experts and decision-makers can build. The GEM Foundation is trying to overcome these gaps by executing a project coordinated with a complementary USAID-funded project from Africa-Array.

The area of Eastern Africa has been selected as a pilot region to build regional capacity, for the first time, for earthquake risk assessment and management, e.g. going beyond hazard. In addition, the Program will pilot a scenario of earthquake risk, for the city of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, involving local authorities as the risk owner. The outcomes of the project will be reviewed at the end of the project for extension to the full region in subsequent years.


2.    Feasibility analysis for distributed GEM Implementing Partners

Over the next years the GEM Secretariat is planning to work with a number of technical institutions and organisations in projects, guided by local decision-makers, to develop risk information together with local experts. By at the same time developing the capacity of those institutions in use of GEM tools and resources and by sharing knowledge and experiences, we would like to understand whether such implementing partners could potentially grow out to be GEM implementing partners in their region.

Implementing partners will support technical and applied risk assessment projects and host capacity building activities in a certain region, as well as can work with the Secretariat in adjusting products to local needs, so that they can more easily be used as part of risk management and reduction processes. We will define terms of reference and work initially with KOERI, but envisage to extend that during the course of the project and beyond to other organisations.


3. Training materials and modules on OpenQuake and GEM tools and resources for technical experts (working) in developing regions

Introducing agencies and experts worldwide to the OpenQuake suite and the set of open GEM resources, and facilitating adoption of these tools and resources, will enhance technical capacity for hazard and risk assessment worldwide, but particularly in developing regions which now lack these resources. The purpose is to develop training modules on key resources and tools ranging from hazard to socio-economic vulnerability and integrated risk, and to piloting these with 2 organisations in the context of ‘train-the-trainers’ exercises.


 4. Promote the use of OpenQuake and GEM resources for hazard and risk assessment around the globe: communication, partnership management, case studies

Develop materials that are specifically targeted towards public agencies in developing countries, and create opportunities to meet with government officials to understand their needs in seismic hazard / risk assessment, how these can be met and how synergies can be created.

Project preparation is under way and activities are expected to really take off in January 2015.

Facilitating risk management and reduction across a continent

The Swiss Re Foundation and the GEM Foundation have joined forces in a three-year collaborative project to create the first-ever comprehensive picture of seismic risk in South America to incorporate social and economic factors. International and local experts will assess potential physical damage as well as the broader community consequences of earthquakes in this rapidly developing region.

A special focus is put on the development of two urban risk scenarios for the highly vulnerabie cities of Quito in Ecuador and Lima in Peru, involving local (policy-making and executive) institutions and agencies. Read more.

More on the "Assessment of Seismic Risk in South America" from the Swiss Re Foundation



Breaking boundaries in California

The California Seismic Safety Commission and the GEM Foundation are going to apply OpenQuake tools in California, working on 2 different projects. One project concerns modelling of recovery processes and the other one is looking at the impact of earthquakes on the socio-economic context and improved preparedness.


While losses are the outcome most commonly associated with earthquake events, it is increasingly becoming clear that some communities will have differing capacities to prepare for, to adjust to, and to recover from adverse impacts when they occur. Great emphasis is being placed on fostering disaster resilient communities as a result since communities that can increase their resilience are in a better position to withstand adversity and to recover more quickly when damaging events occur. It is within this context that the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) is partaking in the development of a scientific framework and computational tools to quantify the effectiveness of specific resilience-building actions (preparedness, mitigation, and response) that may increase the speed of recovery following an earthquake. This endeavor includes the development of an open-source tool that accounts for the probabilistic description of building damage, repair times, as well as other temporal parameters related to recovery processes in order to generate community scale recovery projections.

At the core of this probabilistic framework is the performance-based assessment of building performance limit states (inspection, unoccupiable, demolition and collapse) that are explicitly linked to recovery. Moreover, the work entails a recovery-modeling framework that accounts for the effect of socio-economic parameters. To incorporate socio-economic parameters in a meaningful and robust way, the work is concerned with the exploration of metrics covering social, economic, institutional, infrastructural, and community-based dimensions that may facilitate differential recovery outcomes. A set of metrics for predicting recovery outcomes will be proposed, refined, and incorporated into the recovery-modelling framework via real-world application using the 2014 South Napa Earthquake and the 2015 Kathmandu Valley Earthquake as case studies. Here, a spatiotemporal assessment of the recovery of communities using in situ observations at six-month intervals is being used as an external validation metric to identify variables that might be sufficient for use in predictive recovery modelling as well as for quantitative disaster resilience measurement. 


This project is aimed at increasing post-earthquake economic resilience, through increased insight and knowledge sharing on earthquake modelling

The output of the projects will reach far beyond the region or even the United States, and can be used by public agencies worldwide for improved preparedness and fastened recovery.


Enhancing datasets for local risk assessment

The global datasets that are being developed – some of which can already be used - form the basis for risk assessment at a national level and provide a common standard for sharing and storing data. The datasets put together in only a few years, have a great potential to grow over time, incorporating evermore information that will facilitate risk assessment also at sub-national, city and even community level. 

In order for datasets such as the active faults database, or the global exposure database, (available on the OpenQuake by the end of 2014), to be enriched and enhanced, we use different approaches: 

1. Through a variety of so-called “crowd-sourcing tools” (being developed as part of OpenQuake), where field data or knowledge can be processed through an app or other type of desktop tool. The Android app on data inventory is such example. 

2. Collaboration with public agencies, research groups, organisations and individuals to incorporate their datasets directly, or through them, the data of their members of beneficiaries. For example: 

  • IStructE (Institution of Structural Engineers)  sent an email out to 3.000 of their members worldwide asking for their collaboration on building stock data for the Global Exposure Database
  • EERI's World Housing Encyclopedia team is collaborating on the GEM Building Taxonomy and has so far managed to obtain 217 reports from 49 countries to create a shared knowledge-base on buildings worldwide
  • RIMES and AIT facilitated a workshop with fault experts from the Asia/Pacific region to discuss together faults in the region and work with GEM's active fault tool

There are many more ways where collaboration can lead to win-win opportunities. Visit  the "Partner with GEM" page to see how you and GEM can join forces.