Temblor, an app to transform seismic science into personal risk reduction

Ross S. Stein, Volkan Sevilgen, David Jacobson, Alexandra Kim, & Gabriel C. Lotto

Published August 15, 2017, SCEC Contribution #7716, 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #306

Government agencies and academic researchers and provide a rich stream of seismic and engineering data. In addition to rapid earthquake notifications and damage assessments, these form the basis of probabilistic seismic hazard assessments and loss evaluations used by emergency management agencies, practicing engineers and geologists, and the insurance industry. But the data and the assessments that grow out of them are notoriously difficult for the public to comprehend. For example, who but the cognoscenti understands what “2% exceedance probability in 50 years,” “0.5 g peak ground acceleration,” or “moment-magnitude” mean? Nowhere is this divide more stark than in earthquake insurance. Using proprietary models, insurers calculate the probability of a payout above the deductible for your home policy, but sell the policy as “peace of mind” or “the strength to rebuild.” How can a homeowner act in her best financial interests under these circumstances?

Temblor (temblor.net) is our attempt to make seismic risk lucid, personal, and actionable. Free and ad-free, Temblor uses the best available public data and methods. Temblor gives you the seismic hazard rank of your location anywhere in the U.S. In its maps, you can see the active faults and recent quakes, and the landslide, liquefaction, tsunami inundation, and flood zones around you. Temblor also displays the Global Earthquake Activity Rate (GEAR) model of Bird et al. (2015). By entering the construction year and square footage for homes within the U.S., you learn the likely cost for seismic damage, and how that cost could be reduced by retrofit, or covered by insurance. To give context to this decision, the app compares your seismic risk to other risks homeowners protect themselves or insure for. Temblor estimates the cost and the most probable financial and safety benefits of a retrofit based on your location, home age and size, so you can decide if the expenditure makes sense. Seeking to make quakes more fascinating than frightening, the Temblor blog provides insights about the latest quakes, and editorials about seismic safety and scientific discoveries. Ultimately, Temblor’s mission is not to scare, soothe, or snow people, but to be scientifically credible and personally useful.

Stein, R. S., Sevilgen, V., Jacobson, D., Kim, A., & Lotto, G. C. (2017, 08). Temblor, an app to transform seismic science into personal risk reduction. Poster Presentation at 2017 SCEC Annual Meeting.

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Communication, Education, and Outreach (CEO)