Earthquakes quickly became a frightening way of life in Oklahoma by 2014, leaving many to worry about state bridges’ ability to handle the ever-increasing magnitudes and frequency of earthquakes. Initially, earthquakes were few and far between. However, a 5.6-magnitude earthquake near Prague in 2011 left its mark on a bridge approach. Conducting visual bridge inspections after every earthquake above a 2.0 magnitude, ODOT at times sent hundreds of personnel into the field at all hours. As more scientific information was gleaned, the department upgraded its protocol to send inspectors out within a 5-mile radius of earthquake epicenters above 4.0 magnitude, which meant time and resources. To better response, ODOT rolled out ShakeCast to ensure a faster, more targeted earthquake response. The $1 million ShakeCast software analyzes state bridge data including condition and age against USGS seismic movement data and magnitude rating, allowing the department to base its inspections on scientifically derived data. The system sends an email to inspectors near an earthquake epicenter with a priority ranking of which bridges to inspect.
ODOT is already reaping the benefits of saved time and resources to focus personnel back on critical statewide infrastructure needs. The department has shared its expertise and data with other agencies, cities and counties, making it a win for everyone.