How Can We Prevent the Next Big Haiti Earthquake?
By Glenford Robinson
How can we truly prevent earthquake disasters from happening in Haiti again? We know that earthquakes will be coming again in the future. In fact, Port-Au-Prince sits on the exact location of tectonic plate and fault formation under the Earth where seismic activities occur on a regular basis causing catastrophic earthquakes, none as big as January 12, 2010, nonetheless have occurred throughout history--1860, 1770, 1761, 1751, 1684, 1673, and 1618, (United States Geological Survey (USGS)).
Haiti needs proper building codes to withstand the next devastating earthquakes. This is a must, and the international community has to step in to do all it can to assist Haiti in this regard. The international community should see to it that all future buildings in Port-Au-Prince-- the epicenter of earthquakes in Haiti--be built using established building codes that will enable buildings and homes to withstand the powerful shakes of future earthquakes. We as the international community cannot allow such tragedy to happen again in Haiti.
In fact, Former President Clinton was a resident of the Hotel Montana during his last visit to Haiti, and the Hotel Montana was one of the hotels hardest hit by the devastating Haiti earthquake. Many people from other countries have perished in the Hotel Montana. This is to show us that the infrastructure of Haiti is an earthquake hazard to all of us, so all of us in the international community are compelled to come together and help a nation in need, and help it build itself stronger than ever before. Members of the international community have definitely done so.
It didn't take long for our wishes to be granted. In fact, it was granted in a big way. Former president of the United States, William Clinton (Bill Clinton) has teamed up with the International Code Council (ICC), a nonprofit organization that helps build safer homes and buildings that can withstand the shakes of the most powerful earthquakes. The ICC establishes building codes for builders or developers to follow when erecting buildings and homes in the United States and other parts of the world. These building codes are created to help buildings and homes withstand the effects of Earthquakes and other natural disasters. Such building codes will be of utmost importance in the rebuilding efforts of Haiti.
The ICC receives donations through its foundation (ICCF) to subsidize building assignments in places and situations such as Haiti. While it will be quite some time before the recovery tools and resources arrive in Haiti, the International Code Council is nevertheless using its relationships with the United Nations and the efforts being coordinated by former President William Clinton to help rebuild the devastated nation of Haiti and to reduce future destruction, fatalities, injuries, and property damage from earthquakes and other natural disasters that may occur in the future, (ICC).
In greater detail, the International Code Council is a nonāprofit, membership organization composed of building code officials from building inspectors to fire suppression officials. A direct list of these officials is as follows: architects, engineers, developers, building owners, and others involved in building safe communities.
The Code Council develops model building codes adopted in all 50 States of the United States. These, building codes are either adapted or used as resources in other countries around the world including nations in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Asia and the Middle East. The group of International building Codes includes specific sections pertaining to natural hazards, which are regularly updated to coordinate with U.S. federal agencies and to reflect current data and field experience, (ICC).
According to the ICC, smart application of proven seismic safety principles to rebuild Port-Au-Prince and other Haitian communities are encouraged. It is common knowledge that damage, fatalities, and injuries from earthquakes can be reduced by adapting proper building code guidelines and enforcing them forcefully, (ICC).
Haiti will be getting the best building code technology to rebuild itself. The nation will be getting building code technology developed from knowledge and data received from earthquakes in earthquake-prone areas of the United States. This technology includes certain design and construction approaches that acknowledge hazards and risks associated with massive earthquakes. Such building codes and guidelines will be enforced by the International Code Council to ensure safe constructions of buildings and houses, (ICC). Builders who employ proper building code guidelines when building in seismically active regions know the value of these codes and the techniques to ensure their effective enforcement, (ICC).
Studies have shown that although it cost more to build earthquake-proof homes, every dollar spent on building safer and stronger homes or buildings, prevents four to seven dollars in future losses, (ICC). The ultimate goal of the ICC is to support the efforts of the U.S. State Department and other federal agencies, along with the United Nations and other international relief organizations, to make sure that Haiti is rebuilt in a manner that creates disaster resilience caused earthquakes, (ICC). According to the International Code Council, the seismic provisions of the International Codes are regularly updated to reflect the latest knowledge about earthquake dynamics and building behavior, and can function as an important tool in the Haiti earthquake disaster relief efforts. The Code Council will be providing written materials, subject-matter expertise, and professional development to ensure that Haiti is rebuilt for the long haul, (ICC). The events in Haiti once again show us that any rebuilding efforts should involve construction that utilizes the best available information and technology on building codes and building code enforcement guidelines, (ICC).
The ICC implied that earthquake events of similar magnitude have different impacts based on how prepared a nation and community is in managing the built environment-high rise buildings in cities and private homes. The more prepared the least the casualties, and the least prepared, the more the casualties-Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. In Haiti's case it was not prepared because its government and people did not have the financial resources needed to become prepared. The International Code Council's building codes for Haiti are therefore intended to protect people inside buildings when future earthquakes struck again by preventing the easy collapse of buildings and houses to allow for safe evacuations. It was because buildings collapsed so easily why so many people lost their lives in Haiti. Structures built following the most modern building codes should resist minor earthquakes without suffering damage by riding out severe earthquakes without collapsing according to the ICC. Structures in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti did not follow any modern building codes that would have helped buildings or houses resist the tremors of the massive earthquake of January 12, 2010. China's 7.9-magnitude earthquake was devastating, but with less casualties than Haiti's 7.0-magnitude earthquake.
The ICC and the international community are pouring out their hearts with support and prayers to the people of Haiti. Never in history as there been so much international support for a nation and people in such distress. It is wonderful to see the overall international support for the people of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the most devastated ever, in this region of the world.
The Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2010 was devastating, but history tells us that there could be more big ones in years to come. Port-Au-Prince sits exactly in the epicenter or hotspot of earthquake activities in Haiti. So, there will be more earthquakes coming in the future, big or small; they will be coming. Therefore, now is the time for the country of Haiti to go into preparation mode, so when the next one comes, the country's building infrastructure will be able to withstand the tremors or shakes of the largest of them all, and therefore give its citizens the precious moments they will need to escape before their buildings or homes fall and crush them. Haiti cannot make this happened without help from the international community. So, by President Clinton and the ICC stepping in to lend a helping hand to Haiti's rebuilding efforts, we can be assured that the people of Haiti will be fully prepared for the next massive earthquake whenever it comes.
If anyone would like to donate on behalf of the Haiti earthquake rebuilding or relief efforts, please do so by donating to the International Code Council Foundation, the Redcross, Unicef, or other credible sources.
Glenford S Robinson is a Clinical Lab Scientist, Expert Author, and president of Mstardom.com.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.