What is the appropriate conceptual framework for valuing the prospective benefits of seismic information?
What is the nature of the information that is produced?
What are the various categories of benefits?
How can the benefits be measured?
Finally, has the necessary information been collected for a complete benefit-cost assessment of a seismic network?
An estimation of the societal benefits derived from seismic monitoring information has a number of components:
The framework for valuing benefits is based on the premise that enhanced information from a seismic monitoring network will lead to reduced uncertainty regarding the earthquake risk.
The scientific information gained from seismic monitoring will generate a variety of derivative benefits. As a seismic monitoring network captures ground motion for multiple events over time and space, gains in knowledge will assist with better decision-making in the future. Such gains can reflect increased accuracy as well as reductions in uncertainty.
The information produced by a seismic network is a “pure public good”—the information is available to all, and its use by one party does not detract from its use by others.
The major categories of benefits can be distinguished temporally as “immediate, near- and long-term, and cumulative gains in knowledge.” In general, benefits may be derived from improved contributions to risk assessment, risk perception, and individual choice. An alternative perspective is that the benefits would include, but not be limited to, improved emergency response, enhancements in performance-based engineering, and increased potential for forecasting and predicting earthquakes.
A wide variety of hazard-prediction models and methods can be improved with enhanced seismic information, including ground motion and loss models.
The baseline for determining the economic benefits provided by improved seismic monitoring is the present situation in which the nation’s seismic monitoring capabilities are distributed among a patchwork of essentially independent regional networks (described in Chapter 1), but with the important realization that existing funding levels are insufficient even to maintain present capabilities. Accordingly, any description of the economic benefits of improved seismic monitoring has to consider the incremental benefits in terms of