This integrated summary of the Seismological Society of America’s positions on key U. S. public policy issues was developed by the Government Relations Committee and has been approved by the Board of Directors. It is intended to be a “living document” that will evolve as issues emerge and as SSA's position are further defined. 

Summary of SSA Public Policy Positions

July 2008

Who We Are

  • Founded in San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake, the Seismological Society of America (SSA) is an international non-profit scientific society devoted to the advancement of the earthquake sciences and engineering
  • Objectives of the SSA include promoting public safety through education, mitigation, and risk management, as well as fundamental scientific and engineering research. 
  • SSA membership is worldwide and represents a variety of technical interests. In addition to seismologists, members include geophysicists, geologists, engineers, insurers, and policy makers actively working in the government, academic, and private sectors to promote earthquake public safety.
  • SSA is aligned with the NEHRP Coalition and other professional societies including the American Geophysical Union, American Geological Institute, and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute to promote earthquake risk reduction.

National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP)

The SSA embraces the National Vision statement of the NEHRP – a Nation that is earthquake resilient in public safety, economic strength, and national security – and urges Congress to reauthorize and fully fund this critical public safety legislation in the FY2010 budget. In order to continue the success of the NEHRP, both the leadership and funding for the program must be sufficient to meet the challenges if it is to achieve the goals of the program. While significant progress has been made since the 2004 reauthorization, further work needs to be done.

  • A fully functional national seismic monitoring network is necessary to meet many of the goals identified in the NEHRP Strategic Plan. The success of near-real time Web-based information products (e.g., ShakeMap, PAGER, and HAZUS) developed by the NEHRP agencies for earthquake emergency response depends on reliable data from the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS). Private and public sector organizations have incorporated these decision support tools into their emergency management programs and are expecting them to be available following significant, damaging earthquakes.
  • SSA supports the full implementation of the ANSS and urges Congress to appropriate its full authorized funding.
  • SSA supports the development of seismic design standards for national model building codes by FEMA and urges the adoption of the seismic design standards in the International Building Codes by local and state jurisdictions.
  • SSA recognizes the excellent leadership shown by all of the NEHRP agencies in developing the Strategic Plan, and in particular the role of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as the NEHRP Lead Agency. SSA recommends that Congress provide NIST the necessary funding as part of the America Competitiveness Initiative to effectively carry out this important role.

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

  • Reliable global seismic monitoring is crucial to national security programs.
  • SSA and the American Geophysical Union first issued a joint position statement in 1999 on the capability for monitoring compliance with the CTBT, and have reaffirmed their position in late 2007.
  • Both organizations agree that a fully implemented global monitoring program would meet the verification goals of the CTBT.
  • SSA urges Congress to provide sufficient funding for a robust research program to support global seismic monitoring activities.

Global Earthquake Monitoring/ Tsunami Warning

  • Global tsunami warning systems depend on reliable real-time earthquake information from the Global Seismographic Network (GSN) operated and funded in partnership by NSF and USGS.
  • The inter-agency collaboration between the USGS and NOAA to provide tsunami information is of great value to the nation and the world.
  • SSA recommends that Congress continue to support tsunami research and the long-term operation and maintenance of both the GSN and the Tsunami Warning System.

Outreach and Education

  • Successful earthquake mitigation requires public awareness and education. The public looks to SSA members for information about earthquakes and earthquake public safety. Resources such as the National Earthquake Information Center as well as NEHRP supported education and outreach programs are the critical link for implementing earthquake research into practice.
  • The current lack of support for FEMA’s state grant programs for earthquake risk mitigation defeats the basic NEHRP mission to disseminate knowledge, tools and practices for earthquake risk reduction.
  • The SSA urges Congress to restore funding for the state grant programs for earthquake risk mitigation and to increase support to the NEHRP agencies for education and public outreach.