Resource Page for School Natural Hazard Vulnerability Reduction


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The OSDE has been an active promoter of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) in the education sector. In 1992 the OSDE initiated a Natural Hazard Vulnerability Reduction Program for the Education Sector which promotes the design and implementation of policies, plans, projects, and preparedness for natural disaster reduction, focusing on the physical infrastructure of the sector. In 1993, the IDNDR declared the Year of Natural Hazard Vulnerability Reduction in Schools and Hospitals. In 1992 and 1993 the OSDE and the former Department of Education Affairs (DEA) of the OAS organized regional Natural Hazard Vulnerability Reduction workshops in which professionals in physical planning and school emergency planning from the ministries of education discussed vulnerability reduction programs. In late 1994, with financial support from the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), the OAS-ECHO Program began pilot activities in El Salvador and Nicaragua. In 1995 the Natural Hazard Vulnerability Reduction Program was expanded to include, in a second phase, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama. The Program trains technical staff of the education ministries, government agencies in charge of public projects, and NGOs to prepare school vulnerability profiles. The OAS-ECHO Program also assists the ministries with coordinating national school infrastructure programs, encouraging community participation in vulnerability reduction, and obtaining support for funding mitigation measures.

The Program

The objective of the Program is to prepare and implement actions to reduce the effects of natural disasters on the education sector and identify elements in the infrastructure that could be damaged in the event of a natural disaster, and therefore need to be protected by preparedness and response measures. Among the steps to be taken for protection of schools against natural disasters is the design and implementation of Natural Hazard Vulnerability Reduction Programs for the Education Sector. These programs encompass support for:

Policies to reduce vulnerability; Planning processes for use of natural hazard information; Projects for mitigating damages; and Preparedness and emergency response activities.

The Program will make possible a reorientation of decision-making about school infrastructure based on a knowledge of vulnerability and the possible consequences of disasters. These programs should be based on an assessment of the history of natural hazards in the area, an analysis of vulnerability to these hazards, and the design of structural and nonstructural mitigation actions. Their implementation involves:

the ministries of education; national agencies responsible for school construction; regional organizations; and international organizations that provide financial and technical assistance.

The OSDE supports these programs with technical assistance, organization of training workshops, and the preparation of technical documents. The training materials include, among other subjects, the definition of national programs, the design of strategy, the preparation of technical documents based on assessments, and the execution of actions in the field.

Program Structure

  • Definition of objectives and goals for vulnerability reduction by the relevant agencies
  • Definition by the education sector of an acceptable level of vulnerability of its buildings to natural hazards
  • Coordination among the organizations responsible for the sector's infrastructure to carry out vulnerability reduction actions. These organizations fall into four groups:
    • The ministries of education
    • Government agencies in charge of public projects, such as ministries of public works, Social Investment Funds, local governments, municipalities and local and national non-governmental organization (NGOs)
    • Regional organizations
    • International organizations that provide financial and technical assistance
  • Planning the school physical plant on the basis of assessment of vulnerability to natural hazards. To achieve this objective it is necessary to:
    • Develop the planning capacity of the sector
    • Train the technical personnel responsible for school infrastructure and the education community in the management of information and natural hazards
    • Provide support to the sector for the creation and/or updating of information systems on school infrastructure that include data on natural hazards
    • Ensure that these information systems are the key instrument for decision-making on vulnerability reduction
    • Include the identification of natural hazards, the assessment of vulnerability and risk, and the selection of mitigation measures in the planning process
  • Preparation of mitigation projects based on vulnerability assessments, and their implementation as part of construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, repairs, and maintenance. To achieve this objective it is necessary to:
    • Design school building projects that include structural mitigation measures to reduce vulnerability
    • Obtain financing for mitigation projects, including both the repair, expansion, and replacement of existing buildings and the construction of new ones, that follow vulnerability reduction criteria
    • Establish methods of supervision and control for all phases of school construction projects in areas prone to natural hazards in order to achieve acceptable levels of mitigation
  • Identification of school buildings currently most prone to damage caused by natural disasters
  • Support for programs of disaster preparedness and response based on the dissemination of information on natural hazards to the education community, with a view to preparing plans for emergency response