First Advisor

James Strathman

Date of Publication

Summer 8-27-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Urban Studies (M.U.S.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (U.S.), Earthquake hazard analysis -- United States -- Computer programs, Hazard mitigation -- Planning -- Government policy, Earthquake hazard analysis -- Oregon -- Portland, Earthquakes -- Oregon -- Portland -- Safety measures -- Planning



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 134 pages)


Events or forces of nature with catastrophic consequences, or "natural disasters," have increased in both frequency and force due to climate change and increased urbanization in climate-sensitive areas. To create capacity to face these dangers, an entity must first quantify the threat and translate scientific knowledge on nature into comprehensible estimates of cost and loss. These estimates equip those at risk with knowledge to enact policy, formulate mitigation plans, raise awareness, and promote preparedness in light of potential destruction. Hazards-United States, or Hazus, is one such tool created by the federal government to estimate loss from a variety of threats, including earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. Private and governmental agencies use Hazus to provide information and support to enact mitigation measures, craft plans, and create insurance assessments; hence the results of Hazus can have lasting and irreversible effects once the hazard in question occurs. This thesis addresses this problem and sheds light on the obvious and deterministic failings of Hazus in the context of the probable earthquake in Portland, OR; stripping away the tool's black box and exposing the grim vulnerabilities it fails to account for.

The purpose of this thesis is twofold. First, this thesis aims to examine the critical flaws within Hazus and the omitted vulnerabilities particular to the Portland region and likely relevant in other areas of study. Second and more nationally applicable, this thesis intends to examine the influence Hazus outputs can have in the framing of seismic risk by the non-expert public. Combining the problem of inadequate understanding of risk in Portland with the questionable faith in Hazus alludes to a larger, socio-technical situation in need of attention by the academic and hazard mitigation community. This thesis addresses those issues in scope and adds to the growing body of literature on defining risk, hazard mitigation, and the consequences of natural disasters to urban environments.


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