2005 Alfred E. Alquist Medal Winner:
Dr. James F. Davis

As State Geologist of California since 1978 until his recent retirement, Dr. James Davis has been a leader in numerous aspects of seismic safety in the state, including major contributions in mitigation, preparedness, warning and response.

Shortly after becoming California’s State Geologist, Jim Davis began work to develop earthquake planning scenarios to promote preparedness and mitigation in a state ill prepared for a potentially catastrophic earthquake along the northern or southern San Andreas fault. These scenarios, detailing the potential economic and societal impacts of magnitude 8 earthquakes, were published in 1980 and 1982 and became known as “Special Publications” 60 and 61.  For the first time, emergency managers and planners were able to understand the complexity of an earthquake disaster on urban regions.  Under Jim’s leadership, numerous additional scenarios were published, including a landmark planning scenario that combined damage from both earthquake ground motions and tsunami inundation along the Cascadia Subduction Zone.  These scenarios were instrumental in promoting local mitigation efforts, developing and revising seismic safety elements and driving emergency response exercises. Under Dr. Davis’s direction, the California Geological Survey expanded this work into the Earthquake Hazard Zone Maps with detailed information on local vulnerability to shaking and secondary geological impacts including landslide and liquefaction.

Jim Davis was a founding member of the Western States Seismic Policy Council, an organization that provides opportunities for State Geologists and State Directors of Emergency Services to interact on a regular basis, discuss issues and formulate policy to improve seismic safety.  Dr. Davis also helped create and served as Chair of the California Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council (CEPEC), an advisory body of scientists appointed by the Governor to advise the Director of the Office of Emergency Services regarding seismic potential in California .  Jim capably guided CEPEC for 25 years in dealing with earthquake predictions, forecasts and other indications that the risk of damaging earthquakes had increased.  With his help, the Office of Emergency Services developed earthquake prediction and advisory response plans and a specific plan to respond to a predicted earthquake in Parkfield. 

Under Dr. Davis’s direction, the state developed a modern digital strong motion network with real-time capability to provide valuable information for building code development. After the Northridge earthquake, Dr. Davis brought the California Geological Survey together with the California Institute of Technology and the US Geological Survey to modernize the way earthquakes were monitored and recorded in Southern California in the TriNet Project. This effort led to the California Integrated Seismic Network program that integrates data from the state’s seismic networks into the fundamental data for studying earthquakes and ShakeMaps for emergency response following California earthquakes.

In view of his dedication and tireless efforts on behalf of seismic safety in California, including major scientific contributions to emergency management, Dr. James F. Davis merits recognition by the California Earthquake Safety Foundation as the recipient of the 2005 Alfred E. Alquist Medal for Achievements in Earthquake Safety.