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National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Coordination


  1. This is an annually renewed project that supports NIST's Lead Agency coordination of National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) research and implementation activities. NIST is designated by the U.S. Congress as the statutory Lead Agency for NEHRP, which has four participating agencies: NIST, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Included in this project is leadership and technical support for the Interagency Committee on Seismic Safety in Construction (ICSSC), as required by the NEHRP legislation and Executive Order (EO) 13717.


Objective - To support NIST's statutory Lead Agency role of coordinating National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) research and implementation activities and to provide leadership and management support for the Interagency Committee on Seismic Safety in Construction (ICSSC).

What is the new technical idea?  This project is not a traditional research effort. Rather, it supports National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and ICSSC coordination, management, and leadership. The U.S. Congress requires four agencies: NIST, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to perform coordinated earthquake-related research and implementation activities under the umbrella of NEHRP.  The 2018 reauthorization of NEHRP (Public Law, PL, 115-307) directed NIST to continue as Program Lead Agency. The reauthorization and EO 13717 also requires NIST as the NEHRP Lead Agency to provide leadership and technical support for the ICSSC and Federal agencies to address seismic safety. 

To fulfill this statutory responsibility and provide leadership for its Earthquake Risk Reduction in Buildings and Infrastructure Program, NIST established the NEHRP Office in FY 2006. Commencing in FY 2016, the NEHRP Office function was separated into two activities. The Earthquake Risk Reduction in Buildings and Infrastructure Program is now a stand-alone research group (the Earthquake Engineering Group or 2EG) in the Materials and Structural Systems Division, and the former NEHRP Office was absorbed into the Materials and Structural Systems Division. This project addresses the activities required to fulfill the statutory NEHRP Lead Agency role. Specific statutory EL NEHRP responsibilities include supporting the NEHRP Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC), the NEHRP senior leadership body; supporting the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction (ACEHR), which provides the ICC with expert assessments on earthquake engineering trends and developments and on NEHRP effectiveness, management, and coordination; developing and updating NEHRP strategic and management plans; maintaining the NEHRP web site as an outreach vehicle for the program, and submitting ICC-approved annual reports to Congress on NEHRP activities.  Also required by PL 115-307 and EO 13717 is the responsibility of NIST for providing technical leadership for the ICSSC.

A small in-house staff consisting of a Director and a Management/Program Analyst, with administrative assistance from the staff of the Materials and Structural Systems Division performs these functions.  An Acting Deputy Director of NEHRP has been added to the effort through internal reassignment of an existing 2EG engineer. Also, additional writing and program support is being provided by a fractional FTE assignment of a Management/Program Analyst already in the Division. Our AAAS Fellow, an experienced social scientist, will be completing her last year at NIST in fall 2019; filling a new permanent social science position is now underway to continue this work within NEHRP, addressing social science issues associated with mitigation efforts. 

What is the research plan?

NEHRP is a research and implementation partnership of FEMA, NIST, NSF, and USGS. The NEHRP Strategic Plan outlines the global NEHRP vision, goals, and objectives. The Plan has three Strategic Goals – (A) improve understanding of earthquake processes and impacts; (B) develop cost-effective measures to reduce earthquake impacts in individuals, the built environment, and society-at-large; and, (C) improve the earthquake resilience of communities nationwide. Each of these goals has four or six major objectives, many of which require significant interactions among the NEHRP agencies. The Strategic Plan also outlines nine strategic priorities that should receive increased emphasis if resources are available to support them: (1) Fully implement the USGS Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), which in recent years has become associated with the deployment of proposed Earthquake Early Warning systems; (2) Improve techniques for evaluating and rehabilitating existing buildings; (3) Further develop performance-based seismic design; (4) Increase consideration of socioeconomic issues related to hazard mitigation implementation; (5) Develop a national post-earthquake information management system; (6) Develop advanced earthquake risk mitigation technologies and practices; (7) Develop guidelines for earthquake-resilient lifeline components and systems; (8) Develop and conduct earthquake scenarios for effective earthquake risk reduction and response and recovery planning; and, (9) Facilitate improved earthquake mitigation at state and local levels. A NIST-funded 2011 National Research Council (NRC) report provided a long-range research and implementation roadmap for NEHRP that endorsed the NEHRP Strategic Plan. Both the Plan and the NRC roadmap emphasize national earthquake resilience. 

Major planned FY 2020 EL NEHRP activities include: 

  1. Working with the other NEHRP agencies and a policy contractor to develop an updated NEHRP Strategic Plan reflecting the anticipated needs for earthquake risk mitigation over the next 10 years. This update will address the recent inclusion of resilience concepts as part of mitigation, along with improved design concepts to obtain functional recovery and faster return to service of buildings. Attention for lifelines and earthquake early warning also is needed to meet the requirements of PL 115-307. 
  2. Hold a series of workshops of earthquake community leaders to review the progress achieved under NEHRP and areas needing attention. Use this input as a basis to ascertain Program progress and gaps that exist that require attention. This information will be useful in revising the NEHRP Strategic Plan to address the current state-of-the-Program and the next ten years of Program activity. 
  3. Work with FEMA concerning the viability of options concerning the adoption of functional recovery as a design objective in accordance with PL 115-307. A committee of experts is being formed to develop a draft for discussion. This draft will be reviewed by invited participants in five workshops to be held in the central and western US. The final report is due to Congress by June 30, 2020;
  4. Work with outside contractor to complete the updating of RP-8, Standards of Seismic Safety for Existing Federally Owned and Leased Buildings. Once the Standards are updated and published, work with the ICSSC agencies in adopting the revised version;
  5. Leading the Interagency Committee on Seismic Safety in Construction (ICSSC), as required by PL 115-307 and EO 13717, including initiating quarterly meetings to discuss technical issues related to seismic design;
  6. Working with NEHRP partners to produce the FY2018 NEHRP annual report. Reporting efforts have been emphasized in FY2018 and FY2019 so that all annual reports have been generated and the reporting backlog eliminated; 
  7. Supporting meetings, reporting activities, and membership appointments and transitions for the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction (ACEHR);
  8. Supporting ICC activities, including meeting support as needed. Initiate executive-level meetings of NEHRP agency leaders to begin a dialogue about the Program, identify issues needing action and those needing the attending of agency principals;
  9. Working with the other NEHRP agencies to coordinate research and implementation activities, including NEHRP interactions with Federal resilience activities and other agencies' multi-hazard activities;  

Major Accomplishments


Created January 8, 2013, Updated January 6, 2023