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Policy Statement 390 - Earthquake Hazards Mitigation


Approved by the Infrastructure and Research Policy Committee on March 15, 2018
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports research, practices and policies that identify earthquake hazards and mitigate earthquake risks using a variety of approaches, including:

  • Continuing and expanding the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and similar initiatives;
  • Education and training of future civil engineers in seismic hazards and design concepts;
  • Using and improving state-of-the-art performance standards for critical, essential, educational and disaster-recovery facilities, such as hospitals, first responder and emergency planning facilities, schools and emergency shelters;
  • Developing performance-based regional and local seismic standards for critical infrastructure, lifelines and industrial structures;
  • Reducing the risks from buildings failures in major earthquakes by rehabilitation, mitigation, reconstruction or demolition;
  • Advocating for sustained funding for research into all aspects of earthquake hazards mitigation including those that provide better understanding of the phenomenon, site effects, infrastructure performance, and recovery;
  • Incorporating collaborative community awareness and preparedness when addressing earthquake hazards;
  • Developing performance-based standards for evaluation and retrofit of existing infrastructure;
  • Improving seismic mitigation, with a focus on cost-effective techniques;
  • Developing overarching risk-mitigation programs at state Departments of Transportation, utility providers, and other organizations; and
  • Developing methodologies to address multi-hazard scenarios precipitated by earthquakes.


Earthquakes can be devastating to human life, infrastructure and the economy. Federal, state and local programs exist to protect life and property by developing and evolving best practices for seismic design and retrofit of infrastructure and other vital lifelines.

NEHRP was created in response to the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977 which recognized the threat earthquakes pose and the enormous cost associated with them. NEHRP has provided the resources and leadership that have led to significant advances in understanding the risk earthquakes pose and the best ways to mitigate them. Through NEHRP, the federal government has engaged in seismic monitoring, mapping, research, testing, engineering, supporting code development, mitigation and emergency preparedness. Although NEHRP is well known for its research programs, it is also the source for hundreds of new technologies, maps, design techniques, and standards that are used by design professionals every day to mitigate hazards and risks. NEHRP is a cost-effective and well-run program that has successfully reduced the risk of earthquakes through the cohesive efforts of four federal agencies: the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  


It is in the interest of the public health, safety, and welfare to support development of accepted consensus-based standards for seismic design, construction and retrofit of infrastructure and lifelines and their adoption in codes and regulations of all legal jurisdictions.

ASCE Policy Statement 390
First Approved in 1992