Earthquake Safety Tips in the Classroom

Friday, 19 December 2014
Margarida Oliveira Melo1, Bernardo Azevedo Pinto Castro Maciel1, Rita Neto1, Ricardo Hartmann1, Guilherme Marques1, Mafalda Gonçalves1, Francisco Luís Rocha1 and Graça M Silveira2, (1)Colégio Marista de Carcavelos, Cascais, Portugal, (2)ISEL/IDL, Lisbon, Portugal
The catastrophes induced by earthquakes are among the most devastating ones, causing an elevated number of human losses and economic damages. But, we have to keep in mind that earthquakes don't kill people, buildings do. Earthquakes can’t be predicted and the only way of dealing with their effects is to teach the society how to be prepared for them, and how to deal with their consequences. In spite of being exposed to moderate and large earthquakes, most of the Portuguese are little aware of seismic risk, mainly due to the long recurrence intervals between strong events.

The acquisition of safe and correct attitudes before, during and after an earthquake is relevant for human security. Children play a determinant role in the establishment of a real and long-lasting “culture of prevention”, both through action and new attitudes. On the other hand, when children assume correct behaviors, their relatives often change their incorrect behaviors to mimic the correct behaviors of their kids.

In the framework of a Parents-in-Science initiative, we started with bi-monthly sessions for children aged 5 – 6 years old and 9 – 10 years old. These sessions, in which parents, teachers and high-school students participate, became part of the school’s permanent activities.

We start by a short introduction to the Earth and to earthquakes by story telling and by using simple science activities to trigger children curiosity. With safety purposes, we focus on how crucial it is to know basic information about themselves and to define, with their families, an emergency communications plan, in case family members are separated.

Using a shaking table we teach them how to protect themselves during an earthquake. We then finish with the preparation on an individual emergency kit.

This presentation will highlight the importance of encouraging preventive actions in order to reduce the impact of earthquakes on society. This project is developed by science high-school students and teachers, in strait collaboration with the Parents Association. It was partially funded by the Portuguese “Ciência Viva” program. The seismology research group at Instituto Dom Luíz provides the necessary scientific advice.