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Lessons on Return to Function After the 2018 Cook Inlet Earthquake



Katherine Johnson, Siamak Sattar, Christopher Segura, Steven McCabe


The magnitude 7.1 Cook Inlet Earthquake of November 2018 greatly affected Anchorage, AK area residents. Although shaking likely did not exceed the hazard level for which most newer buildings are designed, disruption to normal operations was significant due to varied impacts across the built environment. In January 2019, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) deployed a reconnaissance team to Anchorage, AK to learn about damages, collect data from seismically instrumented buildings, evaluate the performance of fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) retrofitted structures, and to study risk perception and issues related to re-occupancy timelines and the recovery of function for buildings and infrastructure. This paper discusses findings from interactions with representatives from the Anchorage School District, the Alaska Department of Transportation, and the Municipality of Anchorage Building Safety Department regarding aspects of recovery within their sectors. Key topics explored in this paper relate to barriers for building reoccupancy, procedures for deployment of response and assessment teams, expectations regarding timelines for returning to normal post-earthquake, as well as data needs for risk mitigation action. These areas of practice, which are somewhat outside the control of designers and engineers of buildings and infrastructure, are critical to understanding specific reasons for delays or inefficiencies in recovery of function and can be used by planners and policy makers to improve post-earthquake recovery. So, while shaking from the Cook Inlet Earthquake was not seen as a true test for modern engineered buildings, it did pose a challenge for individuals and organizations in the Anchorage area and should be assessed to determine what measures could help to support return to function after earthquake events. The impressive post-earthquake efforts and accomplishments made in Alaska provide several clear examples to inform preparedness and response and recovery best practices elsewhere. This is valuable knowledge upon which we can build to support society's desires to move beyond the life-safety performance objective currently targeted in building codes and standards.
Proceedings Title
17th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering
Conference Dates
September 28-October 2, 2021
Conference Location
Sendai, JP


Cook Inlet earthquake, functional recovery, re-occupancy, transportation, schools, building inspection


Johnson, K. , Sattar, S. , Segura, C. and McCabe, S. (2021), Lessons on Return to Function After the 2018 Cook Inlet Earthquake, 17th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Sendai, JP, [online], (Accessed June 14, 2024)


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Created September 30, 2021, Updated October 14, 2021