Large damaging earthquakes in California attract scores of engineers, geologists, seismologists, sociologists, economists, and other professionals who arrive in the affected area to investigate such things as ground failure, structural damage, social or financial impacts of devastation, or simply to lend a hand. Clearly, field observations made by these individuals, and information compiled by the companies, agencies and institutions they represent, could add substantially to the critical information base needed immediately by emergency response managers and, eventually, by all interested in seismic-related phenomena and seismic safety. Furthermore, their deployment should be organized so that their presence benefits rather than burdens local, state, and federal officials working in the affected areas.

However, in the absence of an established, organized body to facilitate the reconnaissance activities and integrate the observations of the individuals, much of the information gathered during the immediate aftermath of a strong seismic event will not be compiled and shared, thereby minimizing the opportunity to enhance our collective understanding of seismic-related processes and impacts. Nor would the information be made available to the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA), which coordinates emergency response, damage assessment, and early recovery operations following disastrous earthquakes in the state.

Such a body, the California Post-Earthquake Information Clearinghouse, was established in 1972 under Governor Reagan to facilitate the gathering of information for scientific and emergency response purposes following a significant earthquake event. The core Clearinghouse is made up of representatives of various agencies and institutions based in the state and is managed by the California Geological Survey, the California Emergency Management Agency, the California Seismic Safety Commission, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI).

The Clearinghouse meets on a quarterly basis to maintain strong working relationships among participating agencies and institutions and to continually improve its operational preparedness. When activated following a significant earthquake, the Clearinghouse is designed to provide official disaster responders with crucial data more efficiently, maximize and expedite data availability to involved agencies and institutions, and effectively utilize the talents of earth scientists, engineers, and others that arrive on the scene wanting to participate in field investigations. The plan, available by clicking here, outlines Clearinghouse functions, agency involvement, management, resource needs, and operating procedures.