Our Perspectives

Drop, cover and hold on: Earthquake training in Turkey


Trainee tries to survive the earthquake simulatorPhoto credit: Cherie Hart/UNDP

Turkey has 56 earthquakes a day. Fortunately, most are only felt by extremely fine-tuned seismic sensors.  

Scientists predict that Istanbul, which sits on the Anatolian fault line, is due for a major earthquake in the next 30 – 50 years, which could kill or injure tens of thousands of people.

Our security office takes this information very seriously, and I recently took a staff training course to learn some practical Do’s and Don’ts during an earthquake:

  • Do not: run out of a building while the shaking is going on
  • Do: Drop low, Cover your head and neck and Hold on to something stable
  • Do not: jump out of a window or off a balcony
  • Do not: stand in a doorway. Doors don’t protect you from falling debris as well as a table or desk

I’m sad to report I failed the test. I didn’t drop low enough to my knees or adequately cover my head and neck. However, I did remember to hold on tight to the desk. That part was easy.

While the training was both fun and informative, I was also reminded of the importance of being prepared for the unexpected – and how hands-on disaster preparedness trainings like these can really save lives.

Across our seismically active region, UNDP works to support disaster preparedness efforts that aim to do just that: better equip communities to expect the unexpected.

Take Kyrgyzstan, where UNDP and the Government have trained rural rescue teams in Osh, Jalalabad and Batken provinces to serve as first-line responders during the event of a disaster. They had mock drills to speed up response times.

In fYR Macedonia, UNDP has developed mobile phone applications that detail what to do before, during and after an emergency. This allows users to click on specific locations to follow what is happening during an emergency, as well as access local emergency phone numbers.

In Uzbekistan, UNDP has prepared guidelines in both Russian and Uzbek on the seismic-safe construction of new homes and retrofitting of old ones to ensure they’re able to withstand the next quake.

Now that the training has ended, I look at my apartment differently after being advised to go on an “earthquake hazard hunt.” Each cabinet, book shelf or mirror is a potentially deadly projectile if not properly battened down. My home emergency bag is woefully lacking in necessities.

We can’t predict when the next earthquake will happen, but we can all work hard to ensure we’re better prepared.

Crisis response Disaster risk management Europe & the CIS Turkey

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