Willis Research Network Members Collaborate With USGS and CGS on Southern California Earthquake Study
-New research reveals a magnitude 7.8 earthquake could devastate the region,
causing up to $200bn in damages and over 50,000 casualties-
London, UK, June 30, 2008 Member of The Willis Research Network (WRN), part of
Willis Group Holdings Limited (NYSE:WSH), the global insurance broker, have joined with
the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the California Geological Survey (CGS) to develop
a scenario that shows how a magnitude 7.8 earthquake along the San Andreas Fault could
cause long-lasting social and economic consequences, including critical damage to
infrastructure, transportation and power.
WRN Senior Academic Keith Porter of the University of Colorado led the overall assessment
of physical damages, while WRN Senior Academic Charles Scawthorn of Kyoto University
performed the analysis of fire following an earthquake. The final report will be jointly
published by the USGS and the CGS.
The study concluded that a massive earthquake could cause up to $200bn in damages and
more than 50,000 casualties. One-third of the economic loss would be attributable to fire
following the earthquake, another third to shake-related property loss, and most of the rest to
direct and indirect business losses associated with the interruption of water supply. Fatalities
are approximately equally attributable to fire and shake-related damage. Full details of the
report are available at: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1947.
Julie Serakos, Executive Vice President, Willis Re Inc., said, “ Reports such as this
allows decision-makers and politicians to formulate effective disaster management plans to
mitigate the potentially devastating effects of earthquakes. The combination of cutting-edge
technology, world-class scientists and the vast risk management experience of the insurance
industry allows us to further deepen our understanding of natural catastrophes and
effectively assist our clients with preparations for future events.”
Rowan Douglas, Chairman of the WRN, added, “The lessons learned in this Southern
California study will have important implications for earthquake risk assessment worldwide.
We look forward to working with Dr. Porter and Professor Scawthorn to apply this new
understanding across our international seismic research programme.”
The USGS-CGS study is the most comprehensive analysis ever of what a major Southern
California earthquake would mean. The scenario found that at least 10 million people will be
exposed to heavy shaking, although deaths would be mitigated by California’s successful
efforts thus far to protect the personal safety of residents. In spite of the large numbers of
people in highly shaken areas, deaths are estimated at only 1,800 or 0.02 percent of the
Professor Scawthorn’s work concluded that fire would double the fatalities and economic
losses. Even assuming the absence of Santa Ana winds, the models still indicate a further
$65bn in direct losses and $22bn in indirect losses from the fires.
The scenario forms the scientific framework for what will be the largest earthquake
preparedness drill in California history, scheduled for November 13, 2008. The November
preparedness exercise will test the ability of emergency responders to deal with the impact
of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault in Southern California.
The Willis Research Network (WRN) is the world’s largest partnership between academia
and the insurance industry. Willis has so far teamed up with fifteen leading institutions
across a full range of disciplines from atmospheric science and climate statistics, to
geography, hydrology and seismology, to the impacts on the environment via engineering,
exposure analysis and Geographic Information Systems.
Willis Group Holdings Limited is a leading global insurance broker, developing and delivering
professional insurance, reinsurance, risk management, financial and human resource
consulting and actuarial services to corporations, public entities and institutions around the
world. Willis has more than 300 offices in some 100 countries, with a global team of
approximately 16,000 Associates serving clients in some 190 countries. Additional
information on Willis may be found at www.willis.com.