Professor Halil Sezen was on the frontline following an April 6, 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy. The magnitude 7.4 earthquake killed 305 people, damaged or collapsed 10,000 to 15,000 buildings and displaced more than 30,000 residents. Dr. Sezen was one of four members of a reconnaissance team dispatched by ASCE to study the performance of lifeline structures in the region affected by the earthquake. The team members visited the area to assess the damage to buildings, lifelines and other critical facilities. During their visit, the team members met with several emergency response personnel, including the fire and police chiefs of L'Aquila to learn about emergency response following the earthquake.
A new wastewater treatment plant did not suffer significant damage. However, the aeration tank wall for the older wastewater treatment plant serving L'Aquila collapsed, which reduced the capacity of the treatment plant by more than 50%. The team observed no significant damage to the transportation system other than a few landslides and the collapse of a bridge in a remote area. Numerous school buildings sustained various degrees of damage by the earthquake.