Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Ross B. Corotis

Second Advisor

Keith R. Porter

Third Advisor

Abbie Liel


The cost of natural disasters continues to rise around the world, in part due to the direct and indirect effects of population growth, urbanization, and the pressures they place on land use. To reduce the vulnerability of infrastructure, especially existing infrastructure, will require that engineers bring more than technical capabilities to bear. Engineers also need to know which measures of risk are most meaningful or relevant to decision makers, and then be able to communicate those risks, and the costs and benefits of mitigation, in concise, credible, meaningful terms. A major challenge in developing a plan to retrofit under-designed structures is demonstrating a need to the public and their political leaders, who may have difficulty extrapolating un-experienced low-probability, high consequence events. Many issues must be addressed which all play a role in the tension between short-term rewards to decisions and longterm sustainable actions. Review of current knowledge along with a reassessment offering new understanding and communication tools will be presented focusing on the issues of: (1) public risk perception, (2) public participation in hazard mitigation planning, (3) incorporation of community values, (4) incompatibility of political motivation and long-term planning, and (5) finances of risk and return. A case study reviewing the work done by the San Francisco Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) team will be presented as an example that effectively implements methods presented in this thesis.