Hurricane Sandy, Oct 28 2012 NASA

The Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) Association was formed as an outgrowth of grassroots efforts to investigate and document the geotechnical impacts of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, 1994 Northridge Earthquake, and 1995 Kobe Earthquake. Following these earthquakes, members of the geotechnical earthquake engineering community responded with ad hoc reconnaissance teams that relied on past personal and professional relationships. The National Science Foundation awarded a grant to GEER to help formalize post-disaster geotechnical engineering reconnaissance efforts.

Who are we?
A volunteer organization of geotechnical engineers, engineering geologists, and earth scientists from academia, industry, government organizations, and non-profit organizations

What do we do?
Respond to geotechnical extreme events, conducting detailed reconnaissance and documenting our observations

Why do we do this?
To obtain valuable perishable information that can be used to advance research and improve engineering practice


(4 August 2015)

The Geotechnical Extreme Event Reconnaissance (GEER) Association advances engineering knowledge through documentation and dissemination of the geotechnical and associated consequences and effects of extreme events.


GEER seeks to inform on the potential consequences and effects of future extreme events by identifying and reporting the critical observations needed to advance science and engineering knowledge including the design procedures and performance of geotechnical systems. Its ultimate objective is to aid in the design of more resilient communities and infrastructure. The planning, conduct, and reporting of extreme event reconnaissance activities should be open and transparent to the GEER community, engineering profession, response organizations, policy makers, and public.
Participants of GEER reconnaissance efforts are the representatives and the face of the Association and the National Science Foundation, and as such are expected to follow high standards of professionalism, and be respectful of local customs, traditions, privacy, and rights of affected individuals. GEER participants should make every effort to be respectful of the community under investigation. In addition to recognizing and being sensitive to their everyday customs and cultural norms, GEER personnel are cognizant that colleagues and individuals living or working in the impacted zone may also have been personal victims of the event and thus are operating under abnormal conditions. Lastly, GEER personnel will seek to inform and guide the behavior and actions of other reconnaissance personnel and teams to the need for appropriate ethical considerations.
Field activities should never interfere with the humanitarian effort of a disaster response. Field teams should always seek to minimize risk of injury of participants or others. GEER efforts are intended to gather the perishable information essential to future efforts in developing more effective mitigation strategies and response. In this sense, efforts should be taken to ensure that allocation of reconnaissance resources are used to identify the critical lessons to be learned in any extreme event. GEER participants should allocate resources to best document key effects to develop critical lessons, without regard to the particular research areas of interest of the participants.


The Fundamental Principles of GEER guide its leadership and members in performing their duties at all times. The Fundamental Principles are operational and aspirational. They serve both as a guide for action and as the organization’s common identity and purpose.
Voluntary Service
GEER is dependent on the voluntary contribution and expertise of its members. Neither the Association, nor its members, should be motivated to participate in any manner by the desire for personal gain.
Observations made during GEER reconnaissance seek to advance the research and practice of geotechnical engineering and related fields. Participants honor the need to make unbiased observations across all relevant topics.

Common Good
GEER develops a coordinated response for geotechnical engineers and other professionals following a disaster. It works with collaborators in a mutually beneficial and respectful manner. GEER employs innovative technologies to improve the data quality of post-event reconnaissance and facilitates members’ access to equipment required for data collection. Participants pledge to work on topics and areas prioritized by team leaders regardless of personal research interests or expertise. All agree to disseminate publically available web-based reports and data that are timely and accurate.

Educational Development
GEER advances the talents and capabilities of its members including the training of individuals to perform safe and effective post-event reconnaissance.

Team Unity
There is only one GEER Association reconnaissance activity for a particular disaster occurrence and thus one team leadership structure. Individuals invited to participate on a GEER team undertake activities under the guidance of and with approval of the team leader. This is to adhere to an agreed to set of technical objectives for the reconnaissance as well as ensure team safety at all times. However, GEER team members should feel free to communicate potential issues with the GEER Steering Committee if they cannot be resolved by the team leader. The team lead has the authority to request augmentation of the scope of the reconnaissance activities as additional information becomes available in the field.

GEER has equal status and shares responsibilities and duties of equal weight with other post-disaster reconnaissance efforts, societies, and agencies unless stipulated by the GEER Steering Committee as a result of other agreed to coordination efforts. The Association is constantly re-examining and refining the way in which it works to ensure that its actions are in the best interests of the geotechnical and allied communities it seeks to serve.

Scope and Focus
While the scope and focus of this Code of Conduct is generally on the activities of a GEER Association team responding in the immediate aftermath of an extreme event, it has to be recognized that in some cases, individuals who were initially involved as a member of the GEER team will continue their studies and activities in the impacted area with funding and support from other agencies and sources. While GEER has no oversight role or responsibility for those follow-on activities, it strongly encourages individuals who originally participated as GEER team members to continue to adhere to the GEER Code of Conduct in the subsequent activities, both because they are considered to represent good practice as well as because of the likelihood that they may be continued to be perceived as a representative of the GEER Association.


The ethics of GEER reconnaissance activities are articulated in a Code of Conduct so as to set standards for conduct of extreme event reconnaissance operations. It reasserts the basic principles above and incorporates concepts such as respect for culture, participation, accountability, and human dignity.
The Code of Conduct, like most professional codes, is a voluntary one, but adherence is essential to maintain one’s membership in the GEER Association. It delineates principles that all participants should adhere to in their post-event reconnaissance work. The code is self-policing. Participants in GEER reconnaissance activities who violate the Code of Conduct understand and accept that the GEER Association has the right to remove members from field activities and teams, and GEER may remove a member from the Association.

GEER Code of Conduct for Post-Event Reconnaissance
• The humanitarian imperative always supersedes the GEER reconnaissance efforts. GEER activities must take a secondary role and not interfere with the primary disaster emergency response focused on saving lives.
• Reconnaissance team members will obey local laws, U.S. laws, and international laws.
• GEER participants respect the culture, custom, dignity, and circumstances of the communities that it surveys and the potential personal challenges being faced by local scientists and engineers collaborating with GEER.
• Participants will carefully and thoughtfully perform their field activities in a manner that promotes personal and team safety.
• Participants will act in service of the GEER Association’s goals and not their own objectives.
• Reconnaissance is organized to document geotechnical and other disaster-related effects. Response priorities are assessed on the basis of the potential significance for advancing geoscience and engineering research, policy, and practice.
• Reconnaissance activities will not be undertaken to further a particular researcher’s methodology or for personal gain; instead, they will document effects in an unbiased way.
• GEER participants will collaborate in a manner that is neither discriminatory nor disrespectful to other team members or to individuals of other organizations.
• GEER team members should respect the interests and obligations of potential collaborators, which can be especially demanding in the period following an extreme event. This includes being sensitive to the needs of potential local collaborators who may also be personally affected by the disaster.
• While each GEER team member retains their inherent right to free speech, they agree to share observations with each other and to outside parties in a coordinated manner through the team leader. Interactions with media of any form will be coordinated through the team leaders and Steering Committee Coordinator.
• Once the GEER report is published, team members are free to work on aspects of the disaster as individuals; however, they must make it clear that their views and actions do not represent GEER.
• GEER participants will protect the privacy of individuals’ personal information (e.g., passport and phone numbers, and street addresses). Confidential information will not be shared with others.
• All non-confidential data and information gathered by GEER reconnaissance teams are to be shared with other GEER reconnaissance team members and made publically available in a timely manner. Reporting of observations should be thorough, transparent, and unreserved.
• Participants have professional and financial accountability to the GEER Association, National Science Foundation, and public users of the event reports.
• Potential conflicts of interest and serious issues will be brought forth to and evaluated by the GEER Steering Committee.


Over the last 20 years, GEER has established itself as the leading global organization for the investigation and collection of highly-valuable and perishable geotechnical insights and data and the timely distillation and provision of that information to the public through an exceptional body of reports.


GEER: Turning Disaster into Knowledge

Advancing hazard-resistant design demands that we understand what happened when a disaster occurs. Documenting and sharing the key lessons learned from extreme events around the world contributes significantly to advancing research and practice in hazards engineering. The importance of detailed mapping and surveying of damaged areas cannot be overemphasized, as it provides the data of well-documented case histories that drive the development of many of the design procedures used by geotechnical engineers.

Many engineering methods are based on insights gleaned from observations from past events. Field observations are particularly important in the discipline of geotechnical engineering, because it is difficult to replicate in the laboratory soil deposits built by nature over thousands of years. Further, much of the data generated by an extreme event is perishable and therefore must be collected within a few days of the occurrence of the earthquake.

Unfortunately, extreme events will happen. It would be even more unfortunate if the engineering profession did not capture the perishable data that enables us to understand which design procedures result in good seismic performance and which procedures still need improvement. With this understanding and with robust empirical data, earthquake professionals can advance the art and practice of geotechnical engineering. 


A Brief History of GEER

The National Science Foundation (NSF) had historically supported geotechnical engineers and engineering geologists, who had self-assembled to conduct surveys of damage after large earthquakes. It recognized the value in having researchers witness the effects of earthquakes and collect perishable data. However, post-earthquake responses were often not well coordinated and photographs and notes taken by individuals were locked away in their offices and not shared. The late Dr. Cliff Astill of the NSF challenged geotechnical researchers to work together to improve the manner in which post-earthquake reconnaissance was conducted. In response to his challenge, the GEER Association was created.

GEER started as a grass roots collection of university professors and engineering practitioners who decided to combine efforts to perform post-earthquake surveys through event-focused NSF-sponsored grants that are now called RAPID awards. The documentation of the geotechnical effects of the 1999 Kocaeli, Turkey earthquake through the joint GEER-EERI reconnaissance effort described in Youd et al. (2000) is a great example of what could be accomplished. Soon afterwards, the NSF awarded GEER a grant to capitalize on recent technological developments and to formalize the manner in which NSF would sponsor post-earthquake geotechnical engineering reconnaissance efforts. Support of GEER continued with Dr. Richard Fragaszy of the NSF, who also recognized the critical role of post-event reconnaissance in advancing geotechnical research.  

The goals of GEER are to advance the profession’s capabilities to conduct post-event reconnaissance and to interface more effectively with complementary in-country as well as other U.S. organizations. GEER employs enhanced techniques and systematic procedures to capture critical observations of the geotechnical effects of natural hazards and other extreme events. 

Many of the innovative techniques employed in recent post-earthquake reconnaissance efforts, such as the use of GPS (Global Positioning System) devices, Airborne and Terrestrial LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), satellite optical and SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) images, GoogleEarthTM, PDA (personal digital assistants) based software tools, and digital mapping tools, were developed by NSF-sponsored geotechnical engineers working as part of GEER survey teams. Those techniques that had proved successful in documenting quantitatively the effects of earthquakes could be applied with equal success to documenting the effects of other extreme events.

Recognizing its multi-hazards capabilities and the need to learn from other extreme events, GEER broadened its mandate to include all extreme events that provided opportunities to advance research and practice in geotechnical engineering. Its name was changed to Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance to reflect this broader mission. The ability of GEER to respond rapidly and access creative ideas of both experienced and younger geotechnical engineers is unmatched by any other organization.

The GEER Association is led by the GEER Steering Committee, which is a group of geo-engineers and scientists who have considerable post-event reconnaissance experience. The GEER Steering Committee receives guidance from a broad-based Advisory Panel. The GEER Advisory Panel is a larger group of prominent geotechnical engineers, hazard engineers and scientists in related fields, and personnel belonging to organizations that actively participate in post-event reconnaissance. The GEER Association currently has over 300 members who support the goals of GEER and participate in its activities. A cornerstone of NSF-sponsored GEER activities are web-based reconnaissance reports made available rapidly after the event. 


GEER Mission Decision Process

GEER Mission Decision Process

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