Reducing vulnerability in earthquake active regions

Prediction

Prediction involves using seismometers to monitor earth tremors. Experts know where earthquakes are likely to happen, however it's very difficult to predict when they will happen. Even looking at the time between earthquakes doesn't seem to work. Along the San Andreas fault in California, USA, scientists have some of the most advanced technical equipment and education in predicting earthquakes – but they too cannot be exactly sure of when or where an earthquake may strike.

Protection

Many areas prone to earthquake hazards now use building codes. Any new building or adjustment to existing buildings must be built to strict guidelines that would protect people from future earthquake hazards. Protection involves constructing buildings so that they are safe to live in and will not collapse. Some examples of building improvements are:

  • Rubber shock absorbers in the foundations to absorb the earth tremors.
  • Steel frames that can sway during earth movements.
  • Open areas outside of the buildings where people can assemble during an evacuation.
  • Low cost methods, such as wire mesh retrofitting, are used in rural areas and developing countries. These are affordable and appropriate to the resources and people living there.
  • Lightweight roofs and safety glass designed to reduce damage and injury.
Example of an earthquake-proof building.An earthquake-proof tower block has steel frames that can sway, has rubber shock absorbers in the foundations, and has open areas outside for people to assemble

Preparation

Hospitals, emergency services and residents practise for an earthquake in earthquake-prone countries. They have drills in all public buildings so that people know what to do in the event of an earthquake. This helps to reduce the impact and increases people's chance of survival.

Responses

Responses are how countries react to an earthquake. They are categorised as follows:

  • Short-term or immediate response - in the hours, days and weeks immediately after a disaster, it mainly involves search and rescue efforts and helping the injured.
  • Long-term response - continues for months and years after a disaster and can involve rebuilding damaged or destroyed houses, schools, hospitals, etc. Kick-starting the local economy is also considered a long-term response.