Nightly newscasts remind us that natural and man-made hazards are a continual threat. On average, two major Atlantic hurricanes make landfall every three years 1, two magnitude 7 and greater earthquakes strike the U.S. every 3 years2, over 1000 tornadoes touch down in the United States3, and countless explosions and fires, both accidental and malicious, affect businesses worldwide. While such hazards will always be present, organizations can mitigate life-safety and financial consequences from these perils by understanding the risks and implementing risk reduction programs. Insurance carriers and brokers speak of enterprise risk programs that cover all losses, including liability, financial, and physical property.
Risk is the product of the hazard and the consequence. While the occurrence of hazards, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, is beyond our control, taking action to reduce the adverse consequences are. Quantification of the hazards and consequences, using formal scientific methods and sound engineering, provides the rational basis for allocating mitigation resources, and for making decisions regarding insurance coverage. As the world around us grows more complex, it becomes increasingly difficult to evaluate risks and optimize mitigation strategies. Risk may stem from natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, and fires, or from man-made causes such as release of hazardous materials to the environment, and terrorist activities. All of these events can have significant life-safety, environmental, legal, and financial consequences over a large geographic area.
Risk evaluation and management requires a multidisciplinary approach with input and expertise from many fields, including structural and geotechnical engineering, geology, hydrology, ecology, chemical engineering, toxicology, life sciences, and statistics. Being a multidisciplinary organization, engineers and scientists at Exponent apply their diverse knowledge gathered from experience in natural and manmade hazards to evaluate risks associated with different hazards and determine potential losses.
Many natural hazards affect large geographic areas. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), in combination with remote sensing techniques such as aerial photography and satellite imagery, can be a very powerful tool in delineating conditions within relatively large geographic areas and identifying risk areas associated with hazards such as ground faulting, landslides, and forest fires. The technology also makes it possible to analyze “what-if” scenarios that help decision makers choose from a number of alternatives. Moreover, GIS-based systems can be interlinked with other related systems, providing online and real-time input data to allow continuous monitoring and tracking of environmental risks in case of an emergency. Exponent engineers and scientists use GIS to analyze large and varied spatial data and present the information in a form that is easily comprehensible.
Whether studying the impact of air, water, and soil pollution or the effects of natural disasters on the natural and man-made environments, Exponent provides meaningful answers to clients in making informed decisions.
Exponent can assess, identify, and mitigate physical losses as a result of high-risk natural or man-made hazards. Specific services include:
- Probabilistic Risk Analysis and Assessment (PRA) – As part of the risk assessment, Exponent uses sophisticated structural analyses, incorporating state-of-the-art techniques and the latest laboratory test results, to accurately quantify the damaging effects of hazards such as ground shaking or extreme wind. PRAs can be site-specific or apply to an entire portfolio
- Cost-effective risk reduction solutions – including seismic retrofit strategies and facility hardening for wind or blast loads. Exponent also offers independent peer reviews for retrofit and hardening
- Integration of GIS and remote sensing tools into a comprehensive response strategy
1 http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/deadly/index.html 2http://wwwneic.cr.usgs.gov/neis/eqlists/eqstats.html 3 http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/severeweather/tornadoes.html