December 8, 2023

2012 Annual Meeting Highlights


More than 600 attendees (including 175 undergraduate students) enjoyed the 64th EERI Annual Meeting/National Earthquake Conference, held April 10-13 in Memphis, Tennessee. They benefited from an inspiring multidisciplinary program with the theme “Learning from the Past to Protect the Future.” The backdrop of the meeting was the 200th anniversary of the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes and a sense of urgency based on the possibility of their recurrence. The first day’s sessions focused on learning from both recent and historical earthquakes in the areas of seismology, tsunamis, geotechnical aspects, the built environment, preparedness, response, recovery, and societal impacts.

Tom O’Rourke set the stage for the second day with his 2012 EERI Distinguished Lecture on “The New Normal for Natural Disasters” (see below), in which he emphasized the need to prepare for events that are possible rather than only those that are probable, as has been accepted practice. That day’s sessions delved into assessing the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure, the possibilities of cascading failures, and understanding and communicating risk. The third day underscored building resilience with sessions on how the central United States could benefit from earthquake scenarios as well as a concerted effort to rehabilitate and retrofit structures. The last session of the conference addressed the challenge of creating safe schools on a nationwide basis.

New features this year:

  •  The program, jointly organized with the FEMA consortia,* featured two sets of six concurrent sessions on consecutive days. They offered attendees additional opportunities to engage more personally with the speakers and each other in settings with smaller numbers of people.
  • One designated breakout room was set aside on two consecutive evenings for a series of seven 30-minute Community Evening Presentations on a wide range of topics. The presenters were attendees who had responded to an open call for self-proposed presentations.
  • The conference organizers agreed not to print full copies of the Conference Notebook, which reduced the meeting’s printing impact by over 70,000 pages. Instead, the complete notebook was available online, as a PDF with linked bookmarks to each section, at http:// Attendees received a flash drive with the full notebook and a small-format Conference Journal with an abridged program and room for notes.
  • Instead of an evening banquet, attendees were provided with continental breakfasts, freeing them to spend more time enjoying the soulful nightlife of Memphis.
  • EERI offered up to 24 PDH credits for attending conference sessions. Sixty-three attendees have taken advantage of this benefit so far.

To access PowerPoint presentations of almost all conference presentations, visit

Awards: WSSPC bestowed its Excellence and Lifetime Achievement Awards during Wednesday’s luncheon program. Tobin conferred EERI’s annual awards at various times over the course of the meet-ing. The Institute’s highest honor, the George Housner Medal, went to Helmut Krawinkler, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University. It was accepted by Farzin Zareian on his behalf, as he was unable to attend the meeting due to illness. (Zareian had been a Ph.D. student under Krawinkler and is now an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine.)

Tobin presented the Alfred E. Alquist Special Recognition Award to Phillip Gould, Senior Professor at Washington University, St. Louis.The Shah Family Innovation Prize was awarded to Veronica Cedillos of GeoHazards International. Honorary Memberships went to Polat Gülkan, Professor at Çankaya University, Ankara, Turkey, and Farzad Naeim, Vice President/General Counsel at John A. Martin & Associates, Inc.

The 2010 Outstanding Earthquake Spectra Paper Award was presented by Editor Polat Gülkan to co-authors Kishor Jaiswal and David Wald for “An Empirical Model for Global Earthquake Fatality Estimation,” Volume 26, No. 4, pp. 1017-1037.

Michael Germeraad, an EERI student member and former intern, presented the results of EERI’s 5thAnnual Graphics Competition: 1st place: Guillaume Roux-Fouillet for the “Haiti Seismic Resilience Calendar,” 2nd place: Carlos Sousa Oliveira for a research project graphic on “Seismic Risk in Urban Sys-tems,” and 3rd place: Brad Fleming for a video on “Pile Foundations in Soft Clay.” (

Joyner Lecture: After Friday’s lunch, Jonathan Bray of the University of California, Berkeley, delivered this year’s William B. Joyner Memorial Lecture on the topic of “Building Near Faults.”

Seismic Design Competition (SDC): Support from FEMA, Computers and Structures, Degenkolb Engineers, EERI, Hayward Baker, Kinemetrics, Risk Management Solutions, and Tobolski/Watkins Engineering enabled approximately 175 students from 27 universities (including three from outside the U.S.) to participate in what has become a perennially entertaining, indispensable feature of the Annual Meeting — the Annual Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition, organized for the ninth time by EERI’s Student Leadership Council (SLC). On Wednesday, the teams presented scale models of high-rise office buildings that they designed, analyzed (with SAP software), and fabricated with balsa wood. On Thursday, the models were subjected to up to three sets of ground motions on a shake table. Twelve structures survived all three; the rest survived two. On Friday afternoon, the awards ceremony revealed that the University of California at Los Angeles took first place, followed by Cal Poly Pomona in second, and Oregon State in third. In addition to surviving the shaking, the competition criteria were cost performance, oral presentation, poster, workmanship, and architectural design.

The SLC conferred the following additional awards: The Kinemetrics Award for the Spirit of the Competi-tion to the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez (UPRM); the Degenkolb Award for Structural Innovation to the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania; the CSI Communication Award to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Honorable Mentions went to UPRM for Lowest Annual Seismic Cost and to Cal Poly SLO for Architecture.

Adding even more to the feverish excitement was the introduction this year of a new element to the SDC: a Calcutta auction (apparently invented by the Colonial British and named after the location of its first known occurrence). Wednesday evening reception attendees could bid on which team would win the competition. EERI Past President and Honorary Member Chris Poland was the auctioneer. Bidding for each team began in random order, with one being bid upon at a time. The auction raised $2,000, with half going to the SLC and half disbursed to winning bidders, who in most cases generously donated back to the SLC and EERI.

To see photos, videos, information on team scores, honorable mentions in other categories, and a list of judges, visit Congratulations to all participants in the 2012 competition!

Field trip: After technical sessions were over, 45 lucky people went ona free field trip to earthquake-resistant facilities in Memphis. The trip was sponsored by the West Tennessee Seismic Safety Commission and the University of Memphis (UM) Center for Earthquake Research and Information. The tour was led by top area structural engineers and architects. Destinations included the AutoZone Headquarters Building, the Memphis Pyramid, and the UM Law Department Building, where there was also a reception and presentations on a retrofit strategy for Memphis utilities and the retrofit of the Memphis Hernando de Soto (I-40) Bridge.

Thanks: EERI is indebted to FEMA, the USGS, and the West Tennessee Seismic Safety Commission for their financial support of the conference. Thanks go to Conference Executive Committee members Jay Berger, EERI (chair), Ed Fratto (NESEC), Heidi Kandathil (CREW), Wendy Phillips (FEMA), Patty Sutch (WSSPC), and Jim Wilkinson (CUSEC), as well as conference co-chair Jim Beavers and others who helped develop the program, too numerous to mention — for their efforts in organizing such an out-standing meeting. FEMA funding enabled 22 graduate students from all over the United States and one young professional to attend the meeting.

*Members of the FEMA consortia are the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup (CREW); the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC), the Northeast States Emergency Consortium (NESEC); and the Western States Seismic Policy Council (WSSPC).