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skyscrapers in high-risk zones. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in central California caused 60 deaths and more than $6 billion in property damage, but occupants of the 49-story Transamerica Pyramid building in San Francisco were unharmed, as was the building itself, even though its top swayed from side to side by more than 1 foot for more than a minute.33 In December 1988, an earthquake in Georgia in the former USSR of the same magnitude as Loma Prieta led to the deaths of 22,000 people—illustrating the impact of the better engineered building protection available in California.

A US Geological Survey radio system increases safety for cleanup crews during aftershocks. After Loma Prieta, workers in Oakland were given almost a half hour notice of aftershocks 50 miles away, thanks to the speed differential between radio and seismic waves.34

Weather prediction, enabled by satellites and advances in imaging technology, has helped mitigate losses from hurricanes. Early-warning systems for tornadoes and tsunamis offer another avenue for reducing the effects of natural disasters—but only when coupled with effective on-the-ground dissemination. As is the case for many technologies, this last step of getting a product implemented, especially in underserved areas or developing countries, can be the most difficult. Furthermore, as hurricane Katrina in New Orleans demonstrated, early warning is not enough—sound structural design and a coordinated human response are also essential.

Energy Conservation

The last century saw demonstrations of the influence of technology in every facet of our lives. It also revealed the urgent need to use resources wisely. Resource reduction and recycling are expanding across the United States. Many communities, spurred by advances in recycling technologies, have instituted trash-reduction programs. Industries are producing increasingly energy-efficient products, from refrigerators to automobiles. Today’s cars use about 60% of the gasoline per mile driven that was used in 1972. With the advent of hybrid automobiles, further gains are now being realized. Similarly, refrigerators today require one-third of the electricity that they needed 30 years ago. In the 1990s, manufacturing output in the United States expanded by 41%, but industrial consumption of


US Geological Survey. Building Safer Structures. Fact Sheet 167-95. Reston, VA: USGS, June 1998. Available at:


US Geological Survey. Speeding Earthquake Disaster Relief. Fact Sheet 097-95. Reston, VA: USGS, June 1998. Available at:

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