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8 Rapid Postearthquake Loss Estimates In establishing the scope of this panel's study, FEMA cited the potential value of being able to estimate losses quickly after an actual earthquake, as a basis for planning disaster response and financial as- sistance. The pane} was specifically asked whether cruder techniques of rapid loss estimation might be developed for this purpose. An early study by AIgerm~ssen (1978) was inspired by this desire for a technique to evaluate earthquake losses rapidly. It resulted in a method for estimating earthquake losses that was much the same as the NOAA-USGS method discussed in this report, and it assumed that the inventory was reasonably up-to-date. The inventory and other information assembled for any loss es- timate may be used very quickly once the magnitude and location of an earthquake are established, promded the inventory is current, the computer software is current, and the computer is operating and available. If this approach were to be tried, the data bank and com- puter software must be maintained in an active condition outside aD potentially affected areas. In addition, the crudeness of loss estimates based on the best of today's technology must be kept in mind. Reports from the affected area based on field reconnaissance usually will provide a more accurate picture of the extent of losses 64
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than the best of theoretical loss estunate calculations, and obviously this will be even more true for the cruder estimation techniques. The pane] recommends that low priority be given to developing approaches that rely on projections rather than on field reconnais- sance and actual damage reports after earthquakes. 65