Earthquake Education in Schools: Promoting Safety and Awareness

Education on natural hazards plays a vital role in society, especially for the children of local communities. Among these hazards, earthquakes stand out due to their potential for widespread destruction, making earthquake education also very important. To grow people’s earthquake awareness, many schools around the world tend to teach the scientific background of these dangerous events, making them well-comprehensive for the students using different, often creative, and interactive practical methods.

In this blog post, the focus is on how to teach about earthquakes and thus increase the safety and awareness of the people. We will also mention exercises in the event of an earthquake alarm, low-cost seismic stations placed in the classrooms, and comic books. Make learning fun and the world a more resilient place.

The Importance of Earthquake Education

Earthquakes pose a range of potential risks and damages that can have profound impacts on communities, highlighting the urgent need for earthquake education and preparedness measures. The potential risks and damages are multifaceted and encompass various aspects, affecting both physical infrastructure and the overall well-being of communities.

For example, one of the most immediate and visible impacts of earthquakes is the structural damage they inflict on buildings, bridges, roads, and other critical infrastructure. The collapse of buildings, landslides, and falling debris pose grave threats to individuals both indoors and outdoors. Also, the damages caused by earthquakes can disrupt local economies by halting business operations, disrupting supply chains, and damaging key infrastructure like transportation networks and utilities.

Here, earthquake education holds significant importance, particularly in regions where the risk of seismic events is heightened. The critical reasons behind the necessity of earthquake education in these areas are risk understanding and preparedness, empowerment through knowledge, effective emergency response, minimizing loss of life and property, promoting community resilience, etc., among others.

When individuals are aware of the potential dangers, they are more likely to take proactive steps to safeguard themselves and their loved ones. Moreover, equipping individuals with accurate and science-based information about earthquakes empowers them to make informed decisions during a crisis. Understanding concepts like seismic waves, fault lines, and the Richter scale enables people to interpret official advisories and warnings, reducing confusion and facilitating quick and appropriate actions. Educated individuals can remain calm and composed, enhancing the effectiveness of emergency response efforts. Also, they can provide assistance to others who might be in distress1.

School Seismic Safety

Discuss how schools teach the scientific principles behind earthquakes.

Schools employ various educational methods to teach students about the scientific principles underlying earthquakes. These methods aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the geological processes that lead to seismic activities. For example, teachers use textbooks, presentations, and lectures to explain the fundamental concepts of tectonic plate movements, fault lines, seismic waves, and the causes of earthquakes. They break down complex geological terms into accessible explanations suitable for the student's age and comprehension level. Some schools even often use models to simulate tectonic interactions, illustrating how stress builds up and is released along fault lines, resulting in earthquakes1.

These demonstrations engage students actively in the learning process, while visual aids and videos enhance understanding by providing concrete images of abstract concepts. What’s more, some schools collaborate with local seismological centers to access real-time seismic data so students can analyse seismic recordings and learn to interpret seismograms. There are many more activities, such as collaborative projects, that foster research skills and a deeper understanding of earthquake science.

To ensure the eligible conditions for earthquake education for the students and their safety in the schools, the competent authorities of the countries must determine the policies. The most important cornerstones are:

  1. The protection of the students, the teachers, and the other workers in the schools.
  2. The safety of the school buildings.
  3. Sustainable standards for the design of the school infrastructure are based on the knowledge of the local ground shaking severity, site-specific hazards, and the ability of the community to train, educate, and then license its members to achieve the established goals.
  4. Establishment of educational programs for seismic risk reduction and earthquake awareness
  5. Provide adequate funding and human resources.
  6. Find committed and competent leaders to ensure the effective, sustainable, and continuous improvement of the programs derived from the policies2.

An example of effective earthquake education is demonstrated by the Earthquake Education and Outreach Program by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), which provides educational resources and activities for teachers to incorporate earthquake science into their curricula. It is available here.

Education for Earthquake Awareness and School Seismic Stations

The earthquake education of local communities and, generally, natural hazards is very important. Around the world, educational programs on earthquakes are established to make citizens aware of the seismic hazards and improve their preparedness. In the framework of these programs, the students get knowledge about the nature of earthquakes, seismic hazards, and potential consequences so that they can then attend earthquake drills, available also here, or fill out surveys to test their knowledge.

Earthquake safety measures

In certain regions, such as Nepal and Hungary, educators are taking earthquake education to a whole new level by leveraging technology to provide students with an up-close and immersive understanding of seismic activities. These innovative approaches involve the installation of low-cost seismic stations that enable students to actively engage with earthquake monitoring and observation, enhancing their learning experience.

These regions recognize the value of practical learning and real-world applications in education. To achieve this, they set up low-cost seismic stations that consist of seismographs and other related equipment. These stations are strategically positioned within school premises or nearby locations to capture ground motion caused by seismic events.

In this way, students have the opportunity to observe and analyse actual seismic data recorded by the stations. This real-time data allows them to witness the effects of local and distant earthquakes, explore the characteristics of seismic waves, and understand how the Earth responds to tectonic forces.

Last but not least, here is an example from the Czech Republic on how to ease and make understanding the origin and nature of earthquakes and the propagation of seismic waves even more exciting. The comic book is available here.

Conclusion

It is very important to notice here that earthquake education programs have a different level of development dependent on the local or regional specificities (for instance the size of seismicity, infrastructure, and human resources of the educational institutions and the authorities). However, it can be stated that these programs and trainings help to reduce the seismic risk and increase the earthquake awareness of the citizens, often through creative and interactive tools. This way, people can get a better insight into the effects of these natural disasters and the world becomes a more protected place for everyone.

 

Sources:
- Subedi, Shiba, and others. 2020. Impact of an educational program on earthquake awareness and preparedness in Nepal. Accessed on: 09-Aug-2023. Available at: https://gc.copernicus.org/articles/3/279/2020/ .
- OECD. 2017. Protecting students and schools from earthquakes: The seven OECD principles for school seismic safety. Accessed on 09-Aug-2023. Available at: https://www.oecd.org/education/Earthquake-Safety-for-Schools.pdf
- Subedi, S., Hetényi, G., Denton, P., & Sauron, A. 2020. Seismology at school in Nepal: A program for educational and citizen seismology through a low-cost seismic network. Frontiers in Earth Science, 8, 73.

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