Himachal Pradesh has an extremely high earthquake risk, yet there remained a lack of awareness of risks reduction measures. There was a vital need to build greater sensitivity and imbue a culture of earthquake safety. Working with schools under the programme would also serve as models of disaster preparedness for the larger community.
How we helped
The initiative addressed reducing earthquake risks at two levels: ensuring safer school buildings and building capacity towards earthquake preparedness. It was done working alongside the Government of Himachal Pradesh.
Modelling safe schools
It began with 20 schools in Shimla, serving as models for the larger community. This focused on demonstrating non-structural mitigation and five selected schools were also retrofitted.
A model inclusive school safety programme was instituted at the Deaf, Dumb and Blind school in Dhalli, Shimla. This was a cogent effort to bridge the existing rampant gap in the system. It used specially designed educational material in braille and incorporated aids such as coloured flags and sirens during mock drills. The school has also been made structurally disaster resistant and serves as a model for inclusive preparedness.
Breaking ground at the policy level
The programme then looked at scaling up to a policy advocacy instrument, reaching a much larger audience. This included expansion to three districts – Kangra, Solan and of course Shimla – as well as broader teachers, masons and master trainer workshops.
SEEDS was also designated as the partner agency for preparation of the draft State disaster management plan. It was the first of its kind in the country, incorporating cross cutting issues of social inclusion, community participation and climate change. It was prepared in close consultation with the various State level government departments and with strong downward linkages with community level preparedness. Since then it has been used as a policy tool that has triggered planning exercises of DRR activities at the State level. The plan has since been updated in 2012 and 2017.
For the first time, vulnerability atlases were also prepared at three levels – the State, Shimla District and Mashobra block. The Atlas identified risk hotspots through an analysis of wide-ranging risks and vulnerabilities present in the State, including geographical, physical and social dimensions.
Leaving a mark
Overall, the initiative reached out to over 189,000 people; including teachers, students, masons, engineers, NGO workers and government officials. It broke ground on many levels. There was an innovative mix of IEC tools, the first-of-its-kind policy document in the country and the first vulnerability atlases for the state.
This work was recognised by the Himachal Pradesh government. SEEDS continues to work closely with them on school safety and disaster management even today. In fact, SEEDS representatives are now part of the state government school safety committee of Himachal Pradesh.
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