SPA Risk LLC

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What we do

We serve government, utilities, manufacturing, finance, insurance, and real-estate entities concerned with risk from natural and man-made disasters.  Some products and services:

bulletSeismic vulnerability models for use in HAZUS and proprietary loss software.
bulletDevelop open risk models: open-source software, open methods, and open data. (Link leads to http://www.risk-agora.org.)
bulletWorldwide hazard modeling and multi-hazard risk assessment.
bulletMultihazard risk management for individual facilities, portfolios, and networks.
bulletDecision support using cost-benefit ratio, IRR, certainty equivalent, with single- or multi-attribute objectives.

We design risk-management alternatives and perform economic and life-safety analyses on the basis of cost-benefit ratio, internal rate of return, certainty equivalent, cost per statistical life saved, and other formal decision bases. We provide decision-making information that is understandable, defensible, and actionable. We provide expert independent review of risk assessments. 

SPA in the news

SAFRR tsunami scenario is released. This new disaster planning scenario from the USGS and partners depicts the potential effects in California of a tsunami generated by a M9.1 Alaskan earthquake. Some include: 15 ft amplitudes, days of strong currents, 1/3 of small boats damaged or sunk, $4-5 B property damage and $1-5 B in business interruption losses,1800 blocks inundated wetting the equivalent of 70,000 single-family dwellings, 5 miles of roads damaged including the San Francisco Bay Bridge toll plaza, $100 million in damage to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and only 2 to 4 hours' warning time. This is the USGS Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR) program's 3rd major disaster scenario. It represents the effort of more than 150 earth scientists, engineers, and social scientists from more than 40 public and private entities. SPA's Keith Porter led the assessment of physical damage. SPA's Charlie Scawthorn led the assessment of fire following tsunami. See our publications page for the report and related documents. Contact us for a briefing (like this one) on what your organization can learn from the SAFRR tsunami scenario.

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors unanimously approve the Mandatory Soft Story Retrofit Ordinance. The ordinance grew out of the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety, which SPA's Charlie Scawthorn helped to lead, and the soft story portion of the study, for which Keith Porter performed the risk analyses. The ordinance requires the evaluation and strengthening of soft-story, high-occupancy woodframe dwellings like the kind that collapsed in the Marina District in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Mayor Ed Lee signed it into law on April 18, 2013, the 107th Anniversary of the 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake. This ordinance will almost certainly save lives and homes, and we could not be more proud to have been involved. Contact us to explore whether your buildings are at risk in the Big One.

Helping to shape the Department of the Interior's Strategic Sciences Group. In March 2012, SPA's Keith Porter participated in a workshop with a small group of scholars and scientists to shape the newly created Department of the Interior Strategic Sciences Group (SSG). SSG is intended as a scientific rapid-response group to provide the Department of the Interior with science-based assessments of crises affecting Departmental resources. Its formation was motivated by the success of an ad hoc group that provided Interior with an independent assessment of scientific issues surrounding the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe of 2011.


ROVER is now platform-independent. ROVER (Rapid Observation of Vulnerability and Estimation of Risk), the FEMA-sponsored software for performing pre- and post-earthquake rapid safety assessments on mobile devices, is now platform independent, operating on virtually any Android, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Windows device with an active data connection. ROVER brings the advantages of smartphones to the de facto paper-based standards for safety screening and tagging of buildings, FEMA 154 and ATC-20. ROVER integrates these two paper-based standards with HAZUS-MH and ShakeCast, and adds various advantages of a software solution: built-in soil and seismology geodatabases, unlimited watermarked and captioned digital photos, automatic geolocation, real-time process control, a secure web-accessible database, and other features. Visit www.roverready.org to download the software and to view assessments by independent testers of the software.

Water Supply In Regards to Fire Following EarthquakesOn 10 November 2011 Charles Scawthorn presented the final report on Water Supply In Regards to Fire Following Earthquakes to the California Seismic Safety Commission.  The report summarizes research Scawthorn conducted at the University of California at Berkeley's Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER), where he is a Visiting Scholar.  Key findings were that both fire and water agencies in urban California expect water distribution systems to fail following a major earthquake, but that not enough is being done.  A recommended program of action to improve this situation was approved by the Commission, and will be implemented in the coming year.  The full report is available here, and a four page summary is available here.

Soft-Story Buildings at Risk. SPA's Keith Porter spoke about the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety's Soft-Story Program at the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California Buildings At Risk Earthquake Loss Reduction Summit, at USC in Los Angeles, on 13 October 2011. Dr Porter's talk covered the engineering issues, but also addressed broader lessons from CAPSS about formulating and enacting a mandatory mitigation policy that could be adopted in local building codes. His comments are available here.

National Insurance Conference of Canada: SPA's Keith Porter spoke in a plenary session of the the 5th annual NICC in Vancouver, 25-27 September 2011. Dr Porter spoke on the subject of ShakeOut, Tohoku, and their Implications for Canada. He offered lessons on how to make a similar planning scenario for British Columbia effective. More information on the conference can be found here. Dr Porter's remarks can be viewed here.

National Academy of Sciences Summit for Managing Extreme Events: SPA's Charles Scawthorn and Keith Porter attended this Washington, DC event on 7-9 September 2011, which brought together leaders from the research, policy, and re/insurance communities with expertise in various aspects of extreme events. By convening the resources and talents of the diverse communities involved in predicting, managing, and ultimately paying for extreme events, the NAS hopes to create cross-sectoral partnerships and find ways to reduce risk to extreme events. One outcome appears to be a plan to create a hurricane planning scenario.

SPA Risk publishes a report on the Tohoku Earthquake. SPA's Charles Scawthorn and Keith Porter have prepared a report on the effects of the 11 March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. The report summarizes the seismotectonics, ground-shaking and tsunami runup, and addresses in detail the impacts of the earthquake on lifelines, fire following earthquake, and economic impacts. The report is available here.

International Insurance Society 47th Annual Seminar: SPA's Keith Porter spoke on the Tohoku Earthquake and its implications for the United States. This seminar, held in Toronto Canada on 19-22 June 2011, focused on new global opportunities for the insurance industry. Porter spoke in an panel that dealt with how science can help insurers enhance communities' resiliency to natural catastrophes. His remarks can be viewed here. More information on the seminar can be found here .

Earthquake Spectra special issue published on the ShakeOut Scenario: SPA's Keith Porter led a group of guest editors for this issue of earthquake engineering's leading scholarly and professional journal, which included SPA’s Scawthorn. Both Porter and Scawthorn contributed to the unusually large issue (20 manuscripts), which highlights scientific and professional advances and interdisciplinary work among the earth-science, engineering and social-science disciplines. The journal contents can browsed here; and full text of Porter's and Scawthorn's contributions can be found here.

9th Conference on Catastrophe Insurance in Asia:   SPA's Charles Scawthorn gave a keynote talk on Lessons to be Learnt from the Recent Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, at the 9th Conference on Catastrophe Insurance in Asia. The conference was held 8-9 June at The Westin Chaoyang in Beijing, and had the theme "Responding to the New Normal in Catastrophes in Asia.  More information is available here.

May 2011 World Reconstruction Conference, Geneva:  SPA's Charles Scawthorn spoke on the topic of Critical Infrastructure at the World Reconstruction Conference, held in Geneva as part of the UN ISDR's 2011 Global Platform for Disaster Reduction.  His remarks can be viewed here.

 

HAZUS Open Source Committee Chair, National Institute of Building Sciences:  SPA's Charles Scawthorn has been invited to chair the HAZUS Open Source Committee, for the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS).  The Committee will advise NIBS and FEMA on ways in which HAZUS source code can be opened to selected users, as a first step to broadening the HAZUS development base, in order to enhance HAZUS in a more timely manner.

May 2-3, 2011 Seismic Risk Mitigation Leadership Forum, San Francisco:  SPA's Charles Scawthorn will present a major talk at this 400 person conference at the San Francisco Hilton, on the topic of fire following earthquake.  The Seismic Risk Mitigation Leadership Forum is part of a national series of insurance industry sponsored meetings to promote natural hazards loss reduction.  featuring experts from a range of disciplines to examine mitigation best practices, public policy efforts, communication success stories, and earthquake risk research. The program speakers include Mayor Edwin Lee (City of San Francisco), Mayor Jean Quan (City of Oakland), and Nancy Ward (Federal Emergency Management Agency Regional Director, Region IX).

March 11, 2011 Japan Mw 9 Earthquake and Tsunami:  SPA's Charles Scawthorn and colleagues have returned from an initial survey of the area affected by the earthquake and tsunami.  A brief initial report of their findings is available here,  Dr. Scawthorn's presentation at the PEER 28 April briefing at the University of California at Berkeley may be viewed in this 24 minute video, and approximately 2,400 georeferenced photos may be viewed here.

March 2, 2011: Open-source risk vs. Proprietary risk models, a talk presented by Charles Scawthorn as part of a Distance Learning Seminar Series on Disaster Risk Management in East Asia and the Pacific, sponsored by the World Bank.  Dr. Scawthorn spoke in favor of Open Source Risk Models to an audience at many places around the world, including  Indonesia (Jakarta), Lao PDR (Vientiane), Thailand (Bangkok), Vietnam (Hanoi), Cambodia (Phnom Penh), China (Beijing), Mongolia (Ulaanbaatar), Philippines (Manila), Singapore (Singapore), Japan (Tokyo) and Fiji (Suva). View the 33 minute presentation here.

March 3-4, 2011: GEM Ontology and Taxonomy (O&T) Workshop:  A Workshop focusing on the Global Earthquake Model Taxonomy will be held at the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (University of California at Berkeley) to review an initial proposal for the GEM Taxonomy, and develop selected portions of the Taxonomy.  SPA's Charles Scawthorn is Principal Investigator for the GEM O&T project, which is being performed by a consortium headed by the Alliance for Global Open Risk Analysis AGORA. For more information on the O&T project see the GEM O&T website .

February 2011: Human Casualties in Earthquakes:  Together with Prof. Robin Spence of Cambridge University (UK) and Dr. Emily So (USGS), SPA Principal Charles Scawthorn has co-edited a volume on Human Casualties in Earthquakes.  The volume is a compendium of two international workshops held in Kyoto, Japan (2007) and Cambridge (2009) on the state-of-the-art, with contributions from more than 40 international experts.  The volume is published by Springer, and more information can be found at Human Casualties in Earthquakes.

January 2011:  California Seismic Safety Commission: On Thursday January 13th at the State Capitol, Sacramento, Charles Scawthorn provided a status report on a project he is leading for the Seismic Safety Commission and the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER, at the University of California at Berkeley). The project is an inquiry into the reliability of post-earthquake firefighting water supply, and entitled Water Supply in regard to Fire Following Earthquake.

January 2011: The ARkStorm Summit. SPA Principal Keith Porter spoke at and moderated breakout sessions at the ARkStorm Summit in Sacremento, CA, on January 13 and 14, 2011. ARkStorm (California’s other “Big One”; video here) is an emergency planning scenario developed by the US Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California Geological Survey, a number of California utilities, and others. It hypothesizes a severe winter storm similar to the megastorm that struck California in 1861-1862, and somewhat smaller than 6 California storms of the last 1800 years. The scenario is documented in USGS Open File Report OFR-2010-1312, for which Porter is 1st author, available here. It estimates realistic impacts in such an event of $400 billion property loss plus $600 billion in business interruption losses; 1.5 million Californians displaced; 25% of California property affected by flooding; and virtually every California county and economic sector affected in some way. The two-day ARkStorm Summit served as venue for the offical release of the ARkStorm Scenario. 250 invited guests from the public and private sector joined together to plan action as a result of the scenario’s findings. Speakers and guests included the USGS Administrator; a Congresswoman, the California Treasurer's Director of Pubilc Finance, as well as emergency managers, regulatory and scientific agencies, policymakers, business leaders, and other experts from the public and private sector. See http://urbanearth.gps.caltech.edu/arkstorm-summit/ for more information. Contact us for a private briefing on what your organization can learn from the ARkStorm Scenario.

December 2010: SPA plays a leading role in development of Global Earthquake Model:  Principals Charles Scawthorn and Keith Porter are both playing leading roles in the development of Global Earthquake Model (GEM).  Porter heads a global consortium for development of seismic Vulnerability functions for GEM, while Scawthorn heads a global consortium for development of the theoretical and building classification underpinnings of GEM, termed the GEM Ontology and Taxonomy.   Both of these projects were kicked off by Porter and Scawthorn during the GEM Global Components meeting in Singapore 1-3 December.  Scawthorn is also coordinating US data collection for the GEM Consequences database project, while Porter is participating in the Data Collection Tools project.  For more information about GEM see www.globalquakemodel.org .

December 2010: Communicating Science to Nonscientists (or, Ten Tips for Talking to Townies). Keith Porter presented at the 2010 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union some lessons learned from the USGS' Multihazards Demonstration Project about risk communication. The presentation, co-authored with Lucy Jones of the USGS, is available here.

November 2010: Analysis of Fire Following Earthquake Potential for San Francisco, California:  SPA led an analysis of the potential losses due to fire following earthquake in the City of San Francisco, for the City's CAPSS (Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety) project.  A stochastic model for analyzing fire following earthquake for San Francisco was developed to assess fire following earthquake impacts due to four earthquake scenarios: magnitude 7.9, 7.2 and 6.5 events on the San Andreas fault near San Francisco, and a magnitude 6.9 event on the Hayward fault. Depending on the specific earthquake scenario, over 1,000 breaks in the potable water system may occur and losses that for example for the Mw 7.9 event (essentially a repeat of the 1906 earthquake) are on average about $7.6 billion, and half the time will be as much as $10.3 billion. Opportunities were identified for reducing the fire following earthquake risk, including further improvements in reliability of post-earthquake water supply, further support for NERT, and greater training for this problem for SFFD officers and firefighters.  Copies of the report are available (contact cscawthorn@sparisk.com) and will soon be published by the City and the Applied Technology Council.

November 2010: FEMA Loss Avoidance Study (LAS) vetted. SPA Principal Keith Porter participated in a FEMA workshop to review its draft guidelines for documenting losses avoided by earthquake mitigation projects. The FEMA LAS earthquake guidelines will ultimately be encoded in software to facilitate the creation of LASes by owners of retrofitted facilities.

October 2010: Urban Renewal and Disaster Risk Mitigation: Entities and Financing:  SPA Principal Charles Scawthorn participated in a Working Symposium on Urban Renewal and Disaster Risk Mitigation October 17-19 at Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey.  The Symposium, organized by the Affordable Housing Institute of Boston, MA, sought to develop innovative approaches combining urban renewal and disaster mitigation.

October 2010: PBEE-2 analytical downtime model delivered to Kajima Corp: SPA Principal Keith Porter delivered report presenting a 2nd-generation performance-based earthquake engineering (PBEE-2) approach to estimating the time to restore a critical facility to functionality after an earthquake. The method begins at completion of the PBEE-2 damage analysis, takes as input the damage state of all critical components, and uses a fault tree to assess post-earthquake operability. Click here for a copy of the report.

September 2010: ROVER Demonstration Project exercises ROVER for Utah schools. SPA Principal Keith Porter helped coordinate this demonstration project of FEMA's mobile software Rapid Observation of Vulnerability and Estimation of Risk (ROVER). ROVER was exercised on a sample of Utah schools for the benefit of the Utah Seismic Safety Commission and the Utah Schools Rapid Visual Screening (RVS) Committee. In the exercise, 17 engineers and other building officials were carried out ROVER screenings of a stratified sample of school buildings, considering era of construction, geographic area, and public versus charter-school operation. In 2 days, 139 school buildings were examined, of which 66 (47%) were deemed to need additional detailed evaluations. This high percentage will help support Utah's efforts to have a systematic approach to Utah school seismic evaluations.

September 2010: California Seismic Safety Commission on Water Supply in regard to Fire Following Earthquake: SPA Principal Charles Scawthorn is leading development of a White Paper for the California Seismic Safety Commission that will qualitatively review the current status of emergency water supply in California vis-à-vis fire following earthquake, and provide a series of recommendations for improvements if/where needed.  The White Paper is being developed in collaboration with the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) of the University of California at Berkeley, where Scawthorn is a Visting Scholar.

August 2010: ROVER presented at 9th US National/10th Canadian Conference on Earthquake Engineering (9USN10CCEE). SPA Principal Keith Porter presented FEMA's mobile software Rapid Observation of Vulnerability and Estimation of Risk (ROVER) at the 9US10CEE. Click here for a copy of the proceedings manuscript.

August 2010: ROVER presented at 3rd Annual HAZUS Users' Conference. SPA Principal Keith Porter presented FEMA's mobile software Rapid Observation of Vulnerability and Estimation of Risk (ROVER) at the annual HAZUS Users' Conference in Indianapolis, IN.

June 2010: Extreme Precipitation Symposium. SPA Principal Keith Porter presented the ARkStorm to 200 California flood control and water resource managers, as part of this annual symposium at the University of California at Davis. The ARkStorm is a winter-storm planning scenario that hypothesizes a repeat of the severe winter storm that struck California in the winter of 1861-1862, left the Central Valley impassible, destroyed 1/3 of taxable land in the state, and produced widepsread flooding in Los Angeles, Orange, and Bay Area counties. Such an event could conceivably result in $750 billion of property loss and business interruption, necessitate the evacuation of 1.5 million Californians, and cause long-term harm to the California economy. A USGS Open File Report on the ARkStorm is scheduled for publication in January 2011.

June 2010: Understanding Risk Conference, World Bank: SPA Principals Charles Scawthorn and Keith Porter participated in the Understanding Risk Conference organized by and held at the World Bank, Washington, DC June 1-6, 2010.  Scawthorn together with Dr. Brian Tucker of Geohazards International engaged in a "talk-show format" discussion of "who are the users of the Global Earthquake Model and what are their needs?". 

May 2010: Lloyd's California Earthquake Insurance Seminar in San Francisco.  SPA developed and led a week long seminar for Lloyd's underwriters, adjusters and insurance executives on earthquake risk in general and specifically in California.  The seminar included guest lectures by the California Earthquake Authority, Seismic Safety Commission, USGS Chief Scientist for Southern California, San Francisco Fire Department as well as a dinner presentation by famed author James Dalessandro.  Click here for the Lloyds Market Association 44 page report on the topic.

February 2010: Institute for Catastrophic Risk Management Launch, Singapore:  SPA Principle Charles Scawthorn was invited to participate in the launch of Nanyang Technical University's Institute for Catastrophic Risk Management in Singapore, where he participated in a panel discussion on issues of Cat Risk in South East Asia.

October 2009: SPA contributes to KPIX-TV's article, Dispelling the Myths of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Click here for the 6-minute video.

June 2009: NAIC Study re National Catastrophe Loss Estimation Model: SPA provided a report to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) on the feasibility of developing a national catastrophe loss estimation model for use by insurance regulators.  The study was performed in association with Karen Clark and Company, who addressed hurricane modeling while SPA addressed earthquake loss modeling.  Click here for a Business Insurance news article on the report..

November 2008: SPA develops ROVER for FEMA. SPA pilot tested the Rapid Observation of Vulnerability and Estimation of Risk (ROVER) software with the Los Angeles Unified School District, as part of LAUSD's participation in the Great Southern California ShakeOut. ROVER is open-source software for Windows Mobile smartphone and PC to implement and enhance the FEMA 154 tool for pre-earthquake rapid visual of buildings for potential seismic risk. ROVER also implements and enhances the ATC-20 post-earthquake building safety evaluation procedure. ROVER will ultimately integrate with the US Geological Survey's free ShakeCast software. Among other tasks, ShakeCast watches USGS Internet servers for notice of the occurrence of earthquakes that can damage a user's portfolio of facilities, estimates safety tag color, and automatically alerts users with its damage estimates via email or SMS. In 2 days surrounding the ShakeOut, LAUSD inspectors tested both the pre- and post-earthquake modules of ROVER on a campus of school buildings in the San Fernando Valley, demonstrating that the system works and can facilitate LAUSD's efforts to manage its seismic risk. ROVER has been developed in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Applied Technology Council, and Instrumental Software Technologies, Inc. For a brief overview, click here. For more detail, click here.

October 2008: SPA leads the development of OpenRisk. SPA continues to develop and release OpenRisk applications, in collaboration with the US Geological Survey, the Southern California Earthquake Center, and Instrumental Software Technologies, Inc. OpenRisk is a suite of object-oriented, web- and GUI-enabled, open-source, and freely available software code for conducting multihazard risk analysis. The resulting body of code and applications are all referred to as OpenRisk. For a brief overview, click here. For more detail, see www.risk-agora.org.

August 2008. SPA announces SPARE (SPA Risk Estimation). SPARE is a new quick analysis application for estimating vulnerability functions.  SPARE is the first module in SPA's development of a general risk analysis suite of applications.

June 2008. SPA helps to develop the ShakeOut scenario. Scientists unveiled a hypothetical scenario describing how a magnitude 7.8 Southern California earthquake--similar to the recent earthquake in China--would impact the region, causing loss of lives and massive damage to infrastructure, including critical transportation, power, and water systems. Keith Porter led the overall assessment of physical damages, while Charles Scawthorn performed the analysis of fire following earthquake. In the scenario, the earthquake kills 1800 people, injures 50,000, causes $200 billion in damage, and has long-lasting social and economic consequences. One third of the economic loss is attributable to fire following earthquake, another third to shake-related property loss, and most of the rest to indirect losses associated with the interruption of water supply. Fatalities are approximately equally attributable to fire and shake-related damage. This is the most comprehensive analysis ever of what a major Southern California earthquake would mean, and is the scientific framework for what was the largest earthquake preparedness drill in California history, on November 13, 2008. More than 5 million people participated, including businesses, schools, numerous government agencies, and private citizens. Further information can be found here. SPA's analysis of fire following earthquake can be found here. Contact us for a private briefing on what your organization can learn from the ShakeOut scenario and how you can better prepare for the Big One.

 

Contacts

Charles Scawthorn: (415) 315-9921,

Keith Porter: (626) 233-9758

Postal address
2501 Bellaire St, Denver CO 80207
 

 

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