BUFFALO, N.Y. -- To better reflect its mission of developing
solutions to improve resilience against extreme events of all
sorts, the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering
Research headquartered at the University at Buffalo is shortening
its name to MCEER.
Since September 11, 2001, the earthquake engineering research
center, founded in 1986 and one of three established by the
National Science Foundation, has been applying its expertise in
reducing earthquake damage to communities to a broad range of
natural and manmade hazards.
The center's new moniker and logo will include the banner
"Earthquake Engineering to Extreme Events," to emphasize this
broadened focus. The reference to "extreme events" also underscores
the identification through the UB 2020 strategic planning process
of "Extreme Events: Mitigation and Response" as one of the
strategic strengths upon which UB plans to build in the future.
"There is a whole body of knowledge that we have acquired in the
context of developing new tools and technologies in earthquake
engineering that now should be transferred to address other
hazards," said Michel Bruneau, Ph.D., MCEER director and UB
professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering.
The goal, he explained, is to find solutions that can protect
communities from a variety of hazards at one cost, rather than
using different solutions for each hazard, as now often is the
"We take an optimized approach," said Bruneau. "Ultimately, we
will develop solutions that work for all disasters."
A key goal of MCEER is to unite and support national and
international teams to conduct research, education and outreach
programs to develop knowledge, tools and technologies to enhance
resilience of critical infrastructure, systems and communities
against natural and manmade disasters. Initiatives include
state-of-the-art multidisciplinary research, traditional and
continuing education programs, and partnerships with business,
industry and government stakeholders.
"We don't only wish to develop clever and cost-effective
solutions to these problems," said Bruneau, "we also want to be
very active in driving these solutions into practice in the
MCEER's interest in leveraging the expertise of its researchers,
students and partners beyond the scope of earthquake engineering
began with an initial multidisciplinary collaboration just after
the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
After conducting an NSF-funded reconnaissance mission to the
site within days of the attacks, MCEER researchers brought together
earthquake engineers, blast-protection engineers and social
"The idea was to bring everyone's skill sets to bear on multiple
hazards," said Bruneau, "to look for the synergies among all of the
different disciplines, and to start developing a truly multi-hazard
MCEER researchers also have been instrumental in reconnaissance
work and research on Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean tsunami
and Hurricane Charley.
"If you want to break the
disaster-reconstruction-disaster-reconstruction cycle, you have to
adopt a multi-hazard perspective," said Bruneau. "It's not
sufficient to respond to the 'crisis of the day.'"
For example, he said, when jurisdictional governments impose new
building codes in the wake of a hurricane, those codes also should
be reviewed for their applicability to other disasters, not just
"When we looked at the bridges that sustained damage from the
storm surges in last year's hurricanes, we found the damage to be
strikingly similar to damage caused in past earthquakes," said
Bruneau. "We know that there are steps taken to anchor bridge decks
in earthquake-prone regions. Similar remedies could have reduced
significantly the damage suffered by these hurricane-stricken
bridges. Still, in places that don't have earthquakes, these things
aren't done. Why can't we develop and adapt the same kinds of
technologies we use for earthquakes to protect against storm
To answer these and similar questions, MCEER scientists and
engineers currently are working on a number of projects to foster a
multi-hazards perspective. They are focusing on protecting nuclear
power plants and bridges from blasts and earthquakes; studies of
progressive collapse in buildings and infrastructure due to various
disasters; understanding how nonstructural damage occurs, where the
building itself may survive, but its function is diminished due to
nonstructural damage to equipment and contents; and developing
models of organizational behavior and decision-making during
disasters, especially important for critical facilities, such as
MCEER, headquartered at the University at Buffalo, was founded
in 1986 as a national center of excellence in advanced technology
applications dedicated to reducing losses from earthquake and other
hazards nationwide. MCEER has been funded principally over the past
19 years with $68 million from NSF; $36 million from the State of
New York and $26 million from the Federal Highway Administration.
Additional support comes from the Federal Emergency Management
Agency, other state governments, academic institutions, foreign
governments and private industry.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the
State University of New York.