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Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR)

ShakeOut program logo

ShakeOut program logo (top) and Map of ShakeOut Scenario extent (bottom).

The ShakeOut Scenario was located in southern California where earthquake risk is high compared to the rest of the country. This scenario is a hypothetical, but plausible 7.8 magnitude earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault. This scenario was completed in May 2008. The ShakeOut scenario is described in two publications: The Scenario (Jones et al) and The Narrative (Perry et al). Additional and enhanced studies are contained in a special issue of Earthquake Spectra.

The scenario begins with a rupture of the southernmost section of the San Andreas Fault and very strong earthquake ground motions with shaking approaching 3 m/sec near the fault, damaging shaking (at least 0.5 m/sec) over large areas (~10,000 km2) of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and pockets of very strong shaking (≥1.5 m/sec) with long durations (45-60 sec) in areas of the San Gabriel Valley and East Los Angeles. Secondary earthquake hazards include landslides and liquefaction (when saturated soil, due to pressure changes caused by earthquake waves, behaves like a liquid and loses its ability to support weight).

The ShakeOut scenario was translated into the Golden Guardian 2008 emergency response and recovery exercise (website link). The ShakeOut Scenario identified key strengths and vulnerabilities in southern California's readiness for major earthquakes that launched discussions and further investigations. ShakeOut was used again to develop the southern California catastrophic plan. New discoveries and applications in research fields as diverse as earthquake physics and disaster economics were stimulated by the ShakeOut scenario. The ShakeOut scenario has even inspired the largest-ever participation in earthquake preparedness drills among both the emergency response community and the general public, across the country and around the globe (

USGS Western Geographic Science Center Contributions

For the ShakeOut earthquake scenario, WGSC coordinated the economic impact and resilience and recovery analyses. Wein collaborated with Adam Rose and Dan Wei (University of Southern California) to estimate the economic impacts of building damages from shaking and fire following earthquake, lifeline (water, wastewater, electric power and gas) service outages, and disrupted port operations. Building damage inputs were converted to output losses using HAZUS-MH methodology. The economic impact analysis is detailed in a publication in Earthquake Spectra by Rose, Wei, and Wein (link to paper). Wein and Rose framed and examined numerous economic resilience strategies that were shared or proposed by stakeholders during ShakeOut panel and workshop discussions (link to paper). The economic impacts of highway damages were coordinated across an assessment of damages to the highway systems by Seismic Systems & Engineering Consultants (link to report), a review by Caltrans, and an analysis of delayed and lost vehicle trips by Sungbin Cho (Southern California Association of Governments). Finally, the ShakeOut scenario was extended into the recovery phase after localizing the physical damages, lifeline restoration estimates, and economic impact analyses for two communities (link to paper). Pauline Cotelle (visiting scholar) assisted with the supporting geographic analyses and Laurie Johnson (Laurie Johnson Consulting) provided disaster recovery expertise and led a workshop. WGSC organized workshops for the banking and goods movement industries, regional government and communities. 


ShakeOut scenario property damages (left) and business interruption (right) (billions of dollars)

gas line explosion collapsed highway overpass landslide
A gas line explosion caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake
A collapsed highway overpass caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake
A landslide caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake

Photo Credit, USGS

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