2004 Alfred E. Alquist Medal Winner:
L. Thomas Tobin

Mr. Tobin has worked on natural hazards, risk management, and public policy issues for 40 years. He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley in civil engineering, and has a Master of Science degree in geotechnical engineering from San José State University . He is a registered professional engineer. 

Mr. Tobin’s professional career includes employment for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and the California Coastal Commission. He is best known for the ten years he served as Executive Director of the California Seismic Safety Commission.

During his tenure the California Seismic Safety Commission was instrumental in passing legislation establishing new seismic protection measures, including a hazards mapping program, the unreinforced masonry buildings retrofit program, higher standards for essential services buildings, requirements for evaluation and strengthening of existing hospitals, requirements for disclosure of seismic weaknesses in homes and commercial buildings, and bond initiatives to finance strengthening of state buildings. Under Tobin’s leadership, the Commission also sponsored passage of the California Earthquake Hazard Reduction Act of 1986 and wrote the state’s earthquake risk mitigation program known by the name of the publication, California at Risk. In addition, the Commission successfully opposed attacks on the Field Act and the Hospital Seismic Safety Act.

He has lobbied for legislation, having testified to Congressional committees on six occasions and state legislative committees on over 100 occasions. He has served on the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Advisory Committee and the California State Historical Building Safety Board. He was a director and vice president of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI), was EERI’s 1996 Distinguished Lecturer, and was presented the San Jose State University , College of Engineering ’s 1996 Award of Distinction. He serves on the advisory boards to GeoHazards International, the National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering, and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Mitigation Center . He served as the founding secretary-treasurer of the Northern California Chapter of EERI from 2001 through 2003. He is an instructor with the University of California , Berkeley Extension on earthquake engineering laws, regulations and policies.

As a consultant, Mr. Tobin helped the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shape both Project Impact and the Disaster Resistant University Initiative. Currently, he is the Chief Operating Officer for GeoHazards International — bringing resources and technical knowledge to developing countries to reduce earthquake risk.

Through his personal integrity and leadership skills, Tom Tobin has helped to create a better understanding of earthquake impacts, and the steps that can be taken to enhance life safety. In awarding Mr. Tobin the California Earthquake Safety Foundation’s Alquist Medal, the Board of Directors of the California Earthquake Safety Foundation join others in recognizing his contributions to public policy, to the State of California , and to the earthquake-prone areas of the world.