A policy is typically described as a deliberate plan of action to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes.
Policy makers in this context include:
Legislators, Politicians, Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Senior Management in Ministries responsible for Education, Health, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Services & Planning, and Utilities.
These individuals and bodies have the authority to make decisions about which problems within a particular sector are to be addressed and how these problems are to be handled.
The presence of and adherence to valid seismic building Codes is widely accepted as the most effective earthquake mitigation measure. There are, however, few legally-enforceable and/or effectively enforced engineering and architectural design standards in the Caribbean, and most standards and Codes in common use do not adequately address the important question of non-structural elements. Ideally, Government authorities need to adopt and enforce appropriate Codes, and should be familiar with such code provisions. Unfortunately:
- Codes rely on the "formal" housing system to track compliance
- Where Codes are enacted, they often do not reflect local realities
- Enforcement is a major problem in almost every case, whether urban, suburban, or rural
- Maintenance and workmanship are not necessarily impacted by Codes
- Political and special interest pressures usually play an active role in counteracting the objectives of Codes
- Reliance on regulation has contributed to the decline of responsibility.
In order to reduce casualties and to increase post-event availability and coping capacity, the earthquake vulnerability of hospitals, police and fire stations and EOC headquarters should be lessened. Steps must therefore be taken by policy makers to:
- Ensure that new critical facilities (hospitals, EOC headquarters, fire and police stations) are built earthquake proof, to standards above seismic Code.
- Ensure that existing critical facilities are retrofitted to become more earthquake resilient as a priority. Priority public buildings include schools, hospitals and health care facilities, homes for the elderly, EOC headquarters, fire and police stations and public buildings. In the case of many older structures, the option to retrofit buildings to an updated Code may not be feasible or economical. The importance of the structure, in terms of its potential to cause casualties during an event, or the criticality of its use after an event must be weighed in the retrofit equation.
Policy makers are also urged to consider the following actions as a means to reducing earthquake casualties and damage:
- Request/allocate adequate budget and other resources (man-power, facilities, etc) for execution of required mitigation and response measures.
- Develop and implement a vulnerability assessment programme to identify vulnerable buildings, assess their vulnerability and prioritise to retrofit to improve earthquake resilience.
- Identify structures of critical importance for earthquake response and catalogue them in terms of vulnerability.
- Ensure that EOC and communications are survivable. EOC and communications system should be operational, seismically robust, capable of sustaining operations, contain backup facilities and resources, and be well networked. In the earthquake response phase, time is of the essence to minimize loss of life. Timeliness in initiating coordinated rescue efforts is highly dependent on the ability to communicate. Therefore, the resiliency of the telecommunication systems is of critical importance to earthquake coping capacity.
- Conduct a program to introduce improved (seismic resistant) construction techniques to the building industry and the general public, including certification programmes.
- Enact legislation in those countries where it is required to mandate the use of updated seismic model Codes. A valid and updated seismic model Code needs to be transformed into appropriate national building Codes mandated through legislation or local ordinances (development of ordinance models will require collaboration amongst national stakeholders to promote appropriate earthquake mitigation land use planning and building practices).
- Work with financial and insurance companies to encourage the development of financial incentives to reinforce use of Codes.
- Support and strengthen CROSQ's efforts to develop Regional Building Standards (RBS). Indeed, advantage should be taken of potential synergies between CARICOM agencies such as CDERA and CROSQ.
- Support/pursue regional efforts to establish a common accredited Caribbean residential construction curriculum that would be the basis of an artisan's regional certification. CDERA and CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) would be key partners in such an initiative.
- Undertake periodic updating (five to ten years) of the model and of national Codes based on new scientific knowledge and on monitoring results of their application.
- Promote the formation of national stakeholder working groups to develop model land use planning and building ordinances from the proposed National Building Codes.
- Make relevant guidelines readily available to designers, developers, builders and the general public as a means of enhancing their ability to effectively inform site selection and building design.
- Invest resources to ensure compliance with updated Code. As designers and builders need training in the use of the Codes, sufficiently-trained construction permit granters and inspectors are required to verify appropriate implementation.
- Develop and enforce the seismic zonation map using internationally accepted methods, up-to-date data and transparent and repeatable procedures. These maps should be revised periodically.
- Determine which areas are safe for construction through analysis of the soil type and geological structure, and use this information to develop appropriate land use planning, zoning and development policies.
- Institute incentives to remove unsafe buildings and buildings on unsafe sites or to upgrade their level of safety.
- Institute incentives to encourage future development on safer sites and safer methods of construction through:
o Land use controls (zoning).
o Building Codes and standards and means of enforcing them.
o Favourable taxation, loans, or subsidies to qualify buildings, methods and sites.
o Land development incentives.
- Institute incentives to the vulnerable (in particular the urban poor) to facilitate their investment in retrofitting or relocation of their homes.
- Reduce possible damage from secondary effects by:
o Identifying potential landslide sites and restricting construction in those areas.
o Requiring (and providing incentives for) installation of devices that will keep breakages in electrical lines and gas mains from producing fires.
o Verifying the capability of dams to resist earthquake forces, and upgrading as necessary.
- Build capacity in NDOs through such measures as adequate staffing and sustainment training for NDO personnel and agency liaisons.
- Clarify roles of NDO and other actors in national emergency management system for different emergencies and in the four phases of the DRM cycle (preparedness. response, recovery and mitigation).
- Lobby regional agencies to prioritise supporting activities.
After an Earthquake
- Draw lessons
- Build back better
- Revise hazard maps taking into account new information
- Invest even more in mitigation measures.
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