On June 29-July 1, GeoHazards International President Dr. Brian E. Tucker attended a US-Iran workshop at the University of California, Irvine about reducing earthquake risk. The workshop was called "Improving Earthquake Mitigation through Innovations and Applications in Seismic Science, Engineering, Communication, and Response." It was hosted by the National Academies, whose commitment to fostering scientific exchange and improving communication between the American and Iranian scientific communities has been a vital component of U.S. “science diplomacy.”
At the workshop, Dr. Tucker presented a proposal for US-Iranian collaboration to improve school earthquake safety in Central Asia. GeoHazards International first addressed the need for effective earthquake risk management strategies in Central Asia in 1996; the continuing need for those strategies has been tragically underscored by events such as the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, which destroyed more than 8,000 schools, killing over 17,000 schoolchildren and seriously injuring another 20,000.
Earthquake Damage in Bam, Iran
Millions of children throughout Central Asia remain at risk. Yet many countries in the region lack both a school earthquake safety policy and the capacity to implement such a policy. This lack makes it impossible for them to sustain the systematic, long-term effort that will be required to improve school earthquake safety.
Dr. Tucker is proposing that U.S. and Iranian specialists in earthquake engineering, seismology, public policy and school administration collaborate on a project to improve school earthquake safety in the ten countries that comprise the Economic Cooperation Organization. Those countries are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
This project would establish region-wide policy norms and would build capacity within ECO and its members. GeoHazards International adopted a similar approach in earlier work with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to develop guidelines for school earthquake safety programs for OECD member countries.
In this project, Iranian and U.S. specialists would work with colleagues from all ECO countries to adapt the existing OECD guidelines, to transfer knowledge about earthquake risk reduction, and to conduct implementation projects in three selected ECO nations. Those demonstration projects would address elements of the newly adopted ECO school earthquake safety policy, which could include vulnerability analysis and retrofitting, preparedness training, and education.
Along with making schools safer, this project would build new professional relationships between earthquake safety experts and educational administrators in the U.S. and ECO nations. It would create mutually supporting efforts and relationships that, in turn, would make school earthquake safety policies easier to implement and sustain.