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Robert Olson has been recognized for his achievements in reducing risks, improving emergency response and post-disaster recovery capabilities, strengthening public safety services, managing programs and activities, and advancing knowledge. Awards of excellence include:

Recipient, Alfred E. Alquist Medal for outstanding achievements in earthquake hazard mitigation by the California Earthquake Safety Foundation, 2001.

Member, National Academy of Sciences Committee on Disaster Research in the Social Sciences Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions, 2006.

Team Member, Designing for Tsunamis: Seven Principles for Planning and Designing for Tsunami Hazards. National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, 2001.

California Senate Resolution for outstanding public service as inaugural Executive Director of the California Seismic Safety Commission, 1981.

Outstanding Paper Award, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Earthquake Spectra, 2005.

Honorary Member, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, 2004. 

Co-author, Some Buildings Just Can't Dance: Politics, Life Safety, and Disaster, Contemporary Studies in Applied Behavioral Science, JAI Press, 1999.

Author, Planning For Seismic Rehabilitation: Societal Issues, National Institute of Building Sciences, 1998.

Resolution of Appreciation, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, for service as an Assistant Director, 1975.

California Legislature Joint Resolution for outstanding service as a volunteer advisor to the Joint Legislative Committee on Seismic Safety, 1973.

William A. Jump Memorial Foundation, Meritorious Award for Exemplary Achievement in Public Administration, 1970.