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Thomas D. O'Rourke, Ph.D.

Thomas R. Briggs Professor of Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University

Hollister Hall, Room 273
4 Central Ave
Ithaca, NY 14850

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: (607) 255-6470
Faculty Profile Page

The severity and far-ranging consequences of these extreme events have established, in effect, a new normal for natural disasters. These events require a fundamental rethinking of the way we evaluate the risks of natural hazards, as well as define and protect our critical infrastructure. To address the need for protection against rare, high-consequence events with limited financial resources, local communities need to define what is too big to fail and take steps to strengthen their most critical systems. We must protect against what is possible beyond what is probable.


Thomas O'Rourke is the Thomas R. Briggs Professor of Engineering at Cornell University. His expertise includes geotechnical and earthquake engineering; underground construction technology; engineering of large, geographically distributed systems such as water supplies, gas and liquid fuel systems, electric power, and transportation facilities; and engineering for extreme events, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he served on numerous earthquake reconnaissance missions to Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, Turkey, Armenia and Ecuador. He and his co-workers have developed hydraulic network models for the earthquake response of the Los Angeles and San Francisco water supplies.