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International Conference on Modern Preparation Response Systems for Earthquake, Tsunami, and Volcanic Hazard

Santiago, Chile 27-30 April 1998

The Conference was organized by the Chile National Committee on the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction under the auspices of IASPEI and IAVCEI. The lead work was taken, in Chile, by the Instituto Geografico Militar de Chile (the national mapping agency) and, internationally, by the IASPEI Commission for the IDNDR. The meeting began on the 27 April in the Centro Convenciones Edificio Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile. The opening plenary and closing plenary sessions were attended by leading figures in the fields of disaster reduction and emergency response in Chile.

The Conference was rated as very valuable by the two hundred participants. These included leading figures in the social and technical aspects of preparation and warning of natural hazards from North America and Europe. Some thirty countries were represented. The opportunity to discuss integrated mitigation of the three related geological hazards was a feature.

The Conference was opened by an address by Philippe Boulle, Director of the United Nations Secretariat for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. He spoke on "Towards Natural Disaster Reduction in the 21st Century" and stressed that the most effective approach to reducing losses is prevention. "There is an unfounded tendency to consider that investigation to strengthen the existing infrastructure before disasters will cost much more than the cost of response after disasters. It is exactly just the reverse."

Some ninety papers were presented during the regular sessions of the conference and the abstracts of most of them are contained in a book of abstracts published by the Instituto Geographico Militar and are available on request (seisvolc@conf.dgf.uchile.cl ). These papers contain many up-to-date statements of the hazards, particularly in the Americas, and the present technical status of warning and alert systems. During these oral lectures, simultaneous English and Spanish translations were provided. There was attention, for example, to gas and electric utility systems, exposed to significant geologic hazards, thus causing unacceptable disruptions in customer service and threats to life safety. It was pointed out that modern instrumentation systems that collect, analyze, distribute, and archive data on earthquakes and associated hazards have already been put in place successfully in a number of countries. These have improved the accuracy of long-term assessments of the likelihood of future hazards, including ground shaking and tsunami generation, and improve the speed of emergency response through the rapid determination of earthquake location and extent and level of earthquake damage.

Another highlight was the effort of five Working Groups with membership drawn from conference participants with diverse countries and expertise represented. A set of recommendations from the Working Groups is now being prepared in a separate conference manual, which will be distributed widely to participants at the IUGG Assembly in Birmingham, England in 1999. It is believed that these recommendations will provide a strong and lasting conclusion to IASPEI's and IAVCEI's contributions to the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction.

At the end of the Conference there was a Field Trip to the Observatorio Volcanologico de Los Andes del Sur, Villarrica Volcano, and Puerto Saavedra (ruined by the great 1960 tsunami). The excursion was led by Dr. H. Moreno Rios.

Special thanks for their sustained efforts are due to Brigadier Sergio Matus (Chile IUGG representative), Crl Juan Gutierrez, Secretary of the Local Organizing Committee, and Professor E. Kausel, of the IDNDR Commission. The Conference was supported financially by participant fees, grants from the IUGG and IASPEI, Kinemetrics Inc. and Risk Management Solutions, Inc. The Instituto Geografico Militar made substantial contributions to expenses and Conference staff.

Bruce A. Bolt Chairman, IASPEI Commission for the IDNDR University of California Berkeley, CA. 94720 Email: boltuc@socrates.berkeley.edu