Earthquake preparedness isn’t just about buildings!

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By: Dr. Satyawan Saurabh

About 58% of the Indian landmass is vulnerable to earthquakes. As per the seismic zoning map of India prepared by the Bureau of Indian Standards, India is divided into four zones – II, III, IV, and V. Scientists have warned of a possible major earthquake in the Himalayan state. The landmass of India exhibits large seismic events/responses, especially the Himalayan plate boundary, which has the potential for large seismic events (magnitude 7 and above). Earthquakes in India are mainly caused by the collision of the Indian plate with the Eurasian plate. This convergence has resulted in the formation of the Himalayan Mountains, as well as frequent earthquakes in the region.

India’s policy on earthquake preparedness primarily operates on the scale of structural details. It is guided by the National Building Code. This includes specifying the dimensions of columns, beams, and details of the reinforcement that connects these elements. It ignores buildings that were constructed before such codes were published in 1962. Such buildings form a large part of our cities. It assumes infallibility in the procedures of enforcement. It only depends on the penalties and illegalities. It treats earthquakes as a problem for individual buildings. It assumes that buildings exist and behave in complete isolation from their urban context. There is a need to create a system of tax-based incentives for retrofitting existing structures and implementing seismic codes with greater efficiency. It will create a body of well-trained professionals and capable organizations.

Through social media, TV channels, and newspapers, the life and property of common people can be alerted and alerted to avoid earthquakes. The reason for not being able to save lives and property from earthquakes is also that scientists are not in a position to tell anything about the time and interval of earthquakes. When an earthquake occurs, people celebrate that they survived, but a few years pass and then they forget that an earthquake can happen again and can kill or seriously injure them. That’s why it is important to be prepared to survive an earthquake both mentally and financially. We cannot escape thinking that God will do as He wills. And it is also not right to think that there is nothing in human hands. We can do all this to satisfy ourselves but to avoid natural calamities, there can be a better prevention method through awareness and mock drills.

Japan is a good example in this case. It has invested heavily in technical measures to reduce the damage caused by frequent earthquakes. Skyscrapers are built with counterweights and other high-tech provisions to reduce the effects of earthquakes. The tiny houses are built on resilient foundations, and integrated with public infrastructure with automatic triggers that cut off electricity, gas, and water lines during an earthquake. The policy should start with surveys and audits that can produce earthquake civilization maps. Using such a map, enforcement, incentive, and response centers can be distributed proportionally across urban areas. A policy on earthquake preparedness would require a visionary, revolutionary, and transformative approach. India’s vulnerability to various earthquake hazards requires smart handling and long-term planning. India has established building codes and standards for earthquake-resistant construction. It is important to strictly enforce these codes and standards to ensure that new buildings are constructed to withstand earthquakes. This will also require regular inspections and enforcement of existing building codes.

Older buildings do not meet current earthquake resistance standards and many of them can be retrofitted or reinforced to improve their seismic performance. Emergency response planning is important to reduce the effects of an earthquake. This includes developing an evacuation plan, setting up emergency shelters, and training personnel on how to cope with an earthquake. Investing in research and monitoring can help improve our understanding of earthquakes and their causes, and also help develop better methods to predict and mitigate impacts. It is important to consider the potential effects of earthquakes when planning and developing land-use policies. This includes limiting development in earthquake-prone areas and ensuring that new development is designed and built in a way that minimizes the risk of damage.

The writer is a Poet, freelance journalist and columnist, All India Radio and TV panellist.

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