Faces of Menlo

Post image for Brian Tucker of GeoHazards International works to save lives in developing countries

There’s a  perfect storm growing in developing countries, according to Brian Tucker, CEO of Menlo Park-based, non-profit GeoHazards International (GHI). As their population grows, more and more people are concentrating in cities that are in earthquake zones.

“If you look at the type of building in developing countries 50 to 60 years ago, structures like bamboo houses, there was less of a problem,” he says. “The new buildings are more vulnerable.”

The mission of non-profit GeoHazards is to end preventable death and suffering from natural disasters. The strategy the organization uses is summed up on its website: “We work with the world’s most vulnerable people to develop and deploy preventative solutions that are known to save lives.”

Explains Brian: “Over the past 20 years, the situation has gotten worse. I think we should ask why and look at it carefully. Is it a matter of not enough resources or not the right techniques?

“Typcially, it’s earth scientists or structural engineers that are involved, but maybe the solution is not in our domain. We need to look at social scientists and psychologists and public health workers to expand our ability to make progress.”

GeoHazards map

Brian grew up in earthquake country himself, being raised in Southern California and attending Pomona College. He was pursuing oceanography at Scripps when a “charismatic professor” got him interested in earth science.

Soon after graduating, he found himself in Tajikistan where the Soviets were doing research on earthquake prediction. About 25 years earlier, a huge earthquake had killed 20,000 people.

He saw people building their homes out of adobe, which were highly susceptible to collapse in the event of an earthquake. But one home in one village was different; it had a wood frame that met the design criteria to withstand a quake.

“The current owner’s father had built the house. He told me that it was the one house that had survived the massive quake, that all that was left of the other houses were mounds of mud.

“It was such a compelling story, but when I asked him what kind of house he would build of his family, he told me a traditional adobe house.

“That experience has stuck with me all these years. How you make a difference is not all that obvious.  Even if someone discovers how to build correctly, the practice doesn’t necessarily spread.

“It was a life changing moment for me. I felt I needed to do something that actually made a difference.”

Brian spent many years at the California Geological Survey  before founding GHI in 1991, with initial funding over three years from OYO Corporation, a Japanese company whose founder believed in translating the knowledge and practices of industrialized countries to developing countries.

“We were founded to do things that nobody else was doing,” Brian said. “To go to places that are forgotten and neglected. Our cost of business is higher than other organizations because we have to find places that are vulnerable and find people to go there.

“We really depend on companies like OYO and are fortunate to have the support of several family foundations in the area. Through their support we are able to save lives and reduce suffering due to natural disasters in areas most vulnerable.”

You can learn more about GHI and how you can help on their website.

Photo of Brian Tucker by Irene Searles (c) 2015; map courtesy of GeoHazards

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Schuyler Knapp’s Eagle Scout project benefits his high school – M-A – and fellow students

Thumbnail image for Schuyler Knapp’s Eagle Scout project benefits his high school – M-A – and fellow students

This summer, Schuyler Knapp, a current sophomore at Menlo-Atherton High School, built 10 lunch tables  for his fellow students as his Eagle Scout project. Schuyler is a member of Boy Scout Troup 206. He’s been involved in scouting since he was a first grader.

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David Barry talks about the promise of Mist, the “world’s smartest sprinkler system”

Thumbnail image for David Barry talks about the promise of Mist, the “world’s smartest sprinkler system”

Brown lawns may turn green again if weather forecasters are correct in predicting a strong El Niño with heavier than average precipitation throughout California this fall and winter. At the same time, residents are urged to conserve. Enter the promise of a device named Mist, branded as the “world’s smartest sprinkler system,” watering just the […]

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M-A grad Hannah Rosenfeld launches Kickstarter campaign for Buddy Watch

Thumbnail image for M-A grad Hannah Rosenfeld launches Kickstarter campaign for Buddy Watch

Semester system colleges across America start classes over the next two weeks, which means that parents are parting ways with their kids and sending them into new and unfamiliar territory. For worried parents and discerning freshmen, news reports about crimes on and around campuses, especially in urban areas, are unavoidable. It’s no coincidence that a […]

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Almost empty nester Diane Flynn helps lead other women to new options in mid-life

Thumbnail image for Almost empty nester Diane Flynn helps lead other women to new options in mid-life

After an early career in management consulting and electronic gaming, Menlo Park resident Diane Flynn decided to take a break to spend time at home with her three children. Like others in her situation, she did some volunteering but that didn’t necessarily keep her job skills up to date, especially in the rapidly changing area of […]

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Fleet Feet Menlo Park launches Power of Running campaign with charitable effort benefiting Gwendolyn Strong Foundation

Thumbnail image for Fleet Feet Menlo Park launches Power of Running campaign with charitable effort benefiting Gwendolyn Strong Foundation

Earlier this month Fleet Feet Sports in Menlo Park kicked off a “Power of Running” campaign, celebrating “all that running together, running for good, running to inspire, and running for fun does in the local community.” This weekend that includes the Power of Running For Good, a nine-weekend charitable effort in partnership with Nathan Sports, Superfeet, Balega International, Adidas, New […]

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M-A grad Georgia Reid starts environmental-related company focused on capturing rainwater

Thumbnail image for M-A grad Georgia Reid starts environmental-related company focused on capturing rainwater

Since graduating from Menlo-Atherton High School in 2014, Georgia Reid has participated in a Global Citizen Year in Ecuador where she did an apprenticeship involving potable water. She’ll head off later this month to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, but her focus in the meantime is funding for Raindrop Box, a system to collect, store, […]

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Beth Martin both fosters and adopts dogs through Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

Thumbnail image for Beth Martin both fosters and adopts dogs through Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

Over a year’s time, Menlo Park resident Beth Martin lost four dogs. Twelve or so months later, she started thinking she was ready for a new dog in her life but had a firm opinion about puppies: “They’re a joke. They pee everywhere and eat everything.” Through a friend who had worked on the fundraiser, Haute Dog, […]

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4th grade girls basketball team from Menlo Park shines on national stage

Thumbnail image for 4th grade girls basketball team from Menlo Park shines on national stage

Last Sunday (July 26) the CA CRUSH TNT, a 4th grade girls basketball team from Menlo Park, was crowned National Runner-up Champions (second in the nation) at the AAU 4th Grade Girls National Championships held in Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. The team is comprised of girls who go to Oak Knoll, Encinal, La Entrada and Phillips […]

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Former Menlo Oaks resident recalls growing up in the same neighborhood as Gayle King

Thumbnail image for Former Menlo Oaks resident recalls growing up in the same neighborhood as Gayle King

Did you know that Gayle King, CBS This Morning co-anchor (and, of course, Oprah’s best friend), lived in Menlo Oaks during the late 60s through early 70’s and graduated from M-A? Her father’s job as an engineer brought them to Menlo Park. The Kings were the second black family to move into Menlo Oaks. As far […]

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Menlo Park resident Jonathan Nash participates in National Outdoor Leadership School

Thumbnail image for Menlo Park resident Jonathan Nash participates in National Outdoor Leadership School

Menlo Park resident Jonathan Nash, 20, recently completed a semester course in New Zealand with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Nash and his coursemates kicked of their semester with a 24-day canoeing section traveling on the Clarence river of New Zealand for 120 miles. The group traveled in 6 tandem canoes down the river. […]

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