School Safety and Security

Programme on Educational Building

1990-133X (online)
1990-1348 (print)
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A series of books from the OECD examining issues related to safety in schools. Topics covered in recent years include keeping schools safe in earthquakes and what can be done architecturally to keep schools safer.

Keeping Schools Safe in Earthquakes

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Programme on Educational Building

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27 July 2004
9789264016705 (PDF) ;9789264016699(print)

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Earthquake-prone communities need earthquake-resistant schools. In 2002, a primary school in San Giuliano, Italy, collapsed killing 29 children and one teacher. In May 2003, a medium-sized earthquake in the city of Bingöl, Turkey, caused the collapse of three new schools and a dormitory, killing many children as they slept. All too frequently, earthquakes cause the collapse of school buildings and the injury and death of staff and students. Further, when schools are closed because of earthquake damage, education is hampered, community life disrupted, and potential emergency shelters unavailable. Where school attendance is compulsory, communities have an obligation to provide a safe study and work environment.

Why do schools collapse even during moderate earthquakes? Experts agree that many collapse due to avoidable errors in design and construction. Often, the needed technology is not applied and laws and regulations are not sufficiently enforced. Application of existing knowledge can significantly lower the seismic risk of schools and help prevent further injury and death of school occupants during earthquakes. Moreover, this can be accomplished at reasonable cost and within a reasonable period.

Keeping Schools Safe in Earthquakes presents expert knowledge, opinions and experiences, and provides valuable insight into the scope of problems involved in protecting schools and their occupants. Its recommendations are a call to action to all governments in OECD and partner countries to help facilitate their implementation.

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  • Executive Summary

    This report is the product of an ad hoc experts’ meeting held at the OECD in Paris from 9 to 11 February 2004 on earthquake safety in schools. The meeting was organised by the OECD Programme on Educational Building (PEB) and GeoHazards International (GHI), a non-governmental organisation comprised of specialists in earthquakes and earthquake risk in academic, business and government sectors in the United States and Japan. The aim of the organisers was to initiate an activity that would improve earthquake safety in schools and education systems. The motivation was simple: schools frequently collapse during earthquakes and will continue to do so unless individuals, communities, scientists, governments and other bodies discuss and devise solutions to address the problem. The expert knowledge, opinions and experiences presented in this report provide valuable ...

  • Acknowledging the Importance of Improving Earthquake Safety in Schools

    Few individuals will contest the importance of protecting society’s most valuable and vulnerable members, children; and few will contest the importance of providing compulsory education for all children. Even fewer people will argue with the fact that earthquakes kill people and damage property. But these three essential principles are not valid in modern society. In many earthquake-prone countries, a surprisingly high number of school buildings are not constructed to withstand even moderate-sized earthquakes. The fundamental question that we must ask ourselves is "Why is it so simple to acknowledge the importance of the education and safety of our children, yet so diffi cult to ensure ...

  • Recognising the Obstacles to Improving Seismic Safety of Schools

    The collapse of school buildings in earthquakes can be attributed to basic defi ciencies in both the nature and implementation of laws and regulations concerning the planning, construction and maintenance of school buildings. Countries often lack building codes or poorly enforce existing codes. The following papers tell the stories of why schools have collapsed in earthquakes in nine countries: Algeria, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Turkey, the United States and Venezuela. While these papers assess the relative importance of the specifi c factors contributing to the poor performance of school buildings, they also reveal the extent to which the lessons learned from past earthquakes have been used to change and improve building codes and construction practices. In addition, these stories highlight the crucial role of the many groups and individuals who ...

  • Defining Seismic Safety Principles for Schools

    In order to improve earthquake safety in schools, the fundamental concepts and principles that lead to building earthquake-resilient school must be identifi ed. The aim of this part of the experts’ meeting was not only to defi ne these concepts and principles, taking into account cost/benefi t and resource implications, but also to use them as a starting point from which to develop a programme for school seismic safety in countries. California’s 1933 Field Act illustrates how effective legislation can lead to developing and implementing a successful programme. The general principles that ensure the effective and prolonged enforcement of this legislation can be identifi ed, although the extent to ...

  • Assessing Vulnerability and Risks to Schools and Other Public Buildings

    Is it feasible to develop norms for assessing risk and for quantifying structural and non-structural hazards, vulnerability and exposure in schools and other public buildings? If establishing and monitoring norms is realistic, to what extent are these norms transferable across cultures and countries? Successful programmes exist that assess vulnerability and risk in public buildings. In this section, the Insurance Services Offi ce’s Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS) and the United States-Italy collaborative programme ...

  • Identifying Strategies and Programmes for Improving School Seismic Safety

    The practical obstacles to promoting school seismic safety concepts and principles are numerous, and the stories recounted in this report demonstrate that in many cases there are more impediments than incentives to achieving a culture of safety. In developing countries, implementing a strategic programme is further complicated by such factors as lack of local expertise, shortage of fi nances, disagreement between external experts and scarcity of materials. In a European context, while the material, fi nancial and human resources exist to establish a number of programmes for screening, evaluating and strengthening existing buildings in earthquake-prone countries, much greater regulatory effort is required in all countries to signifi cantly reduce the highest risks to public buildings. In this section, the experts were invited to describe the application of known seismic ...

  • Taking an Initial Step Towards Improving Earthquake Safety in Schools

    All too frequently, strong earthquakes strike OECD member countries, causing the collapse of school buildings and the death of innocent children. Although earthquakes are natural and unavoidable events, school buildings need not collapse during earthquakes. The knowledge presently exists to signifi cantly lower the seismic risk of schools and to help prevent further injury and death of school occupants during earthquakes. Experts from 14 countries and five continents representing international organisations, government, academia, business and non-governmental organisations deliberated for ...

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