Chilean Earthquake Leadership Project


PI/Project Contacts

  • Michael Useem
  • Howard Kunreuther
  • Erwann Michel-Kerjan

Project members:

  • Aldo Boitano de Moras (Vertical S.A.)
  • Eugenio Guzman (Vertical S.A.)
  • Rodrigo Jordan (Vertical S.A.)
  • Matko Koljatic (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Project description:

The Chilean Earthquake Leadership Project of 2012-13 is a collaborative assessment of the lessons learned from Chile’s preparation for and response to the devastating earthquake of February 27, 2010. Undertaken at the request of the President of Chile, the project is led by Michael Useem, Howard Kunreuther and Erwann Michel-Kerjan of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Aldo Boitano, Eugenio Guzmán, and Rodrigo Jordán of Vertical S.A. (Chile); and Matko Koljatic of the University of Chile, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. The study is focused on Chile’s catastrophe management planning and recovery, and a range of management and financial issues in the aftermath of its devastating 8.8 magnitude quake, the fifth largest ever recorded. The project principles are gathering data from a host of sources, including personal interviews with President Piñera, cabinet members, and individuals in government and the private sector. The project team is also working with the New Zealand Earthquake Commission and other agencies to identify the principles and practices from their experience and those of other countries that will guide national preparation for and response to catastrophic events, both natural and created.


cover-Leadership-Dispatches3Michael Useem, Howard Kunreuther, Erwann Michel-Kerjan. Leadership Dispatches: Chile’s Extraordinary Comeback from Disaster, Stanford University Press, 2015.

In the early hours of February 27, 2010, a powerful earthquake rocked Chile for nearly two minutes. At Mw 8.8, it was 500 times more powerful than the quake just six weeks earlier that had killed more than a quarter million in Haiti. The F27 event in Chile devastated homes, schools, hospitals, roads and telecommunications. The damage was equal to 18 percent of Chile’s GDP, the equivalent of a $2.7 trillion loss in the U.S., more than twenty times greater than that caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Yet Chile’s death toll was 600 times less than Haiti’s, and the economy was fully back on track with six percent annual GDP growth the following year. How? From the outset, the Chilean President insisted that the country think strategically and act deliberatively, that it go beyond what they had already done to reduce losses from future earthquakes. The decisions and actions taken by the nation’s leaders in the days that followed the quake and the nation’s traditions and culture facilitated the implementation of policies that addressed both the immediate recovery needs and long-term planning.

More information at Stanford University Press
Op-ed in USA Today
Video interview (2 minutes) in Globe and Mail
Seminar presentation (80 minutes) by Michael Useem, Howard Kunreuther and Erwann Michel-Kerjan