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Keywords:

  • Seismic risk;
  • risk perceptions;
  • earthquake hazards;
  • risk mitigation

During the 1980s, seismic research suggested that Oregon and the City of Portland had a higher risk of a major earthquake than had previously been assumed. In 1993, the State of Oregon adopted a new version of the Oregon Structural Specialty Code, which changed the designation of western Oregon from seismic zone 2b to seismic zone 3. The City of Portland established a program and a Task Force on Seismic Strengthening of Buildings to recommend actions that would encourage upgrading of city buildings. A survey of adult city residents was conducted in April, 1996 to determine public attitudes and opinions about earthquake risks, management and mitigation of earthquake hazards, priorities for protection by strengthening buildings, evaluations of strategies for informing the public about earthquake risks, and support for specific options the city might take to protect citizens against earthquake events. Social and demographic information on individuals and households was also collected. Respondents provided ratings for a wide range of social and environmental risks, provided information on priorities for strengthening key buildings and infrastructure facilities, and answered hypothetical questions about voting for bond measures to pay for city earthquake mitigation programs. Respondents recognized significant risk from earthquakes and supported programs to protect people, especially vulnerable residents such as children and the sick. There was strong support for protecting emergency response capabilities. There was much less support for using public funds to reduce the risks associated with privately owned buildings. There were also some strong pockets of resistance to publicly funded mitigation programs in response to the hypothetical bond measures.