World Experts Call for Action on Seismic Risks for Schoolchildren: OECD Report


27/07/2004 - Schoolchildren in many countries face unacceptable risks of injury and loss of life due to the faulty design and construction of school buildings which collapse in the event of earthquakes or other disasters, according to 30 world-renowned experts brought together by the OECD and U.S.-based non-profit organisation GeoHazards International. A new OECD publication sets out the problem and makes recommendations for improving earthquake safety in schools.

Tragedies occur because available technology is not applied and existing laws and regulations are not sufficiently enforced, Keeping Schools Safe in Earthquakes finds. The design and construction of schools could be improved quickly and at reasonable cost to significantly lower the seismic risk to schools and help prevent further injury and death.

Keeping Schools Safe in Earthquakes contains 18 reports from experts in 12 countries. Their recommendations will be presented to 2 400 specialists in seismic structural engineering at the World Conference on Earthquake Engineering (WCEE) from 1 - 6 August at the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre in Vancouver, Canada, and to the OECD’s governing Council for consideration by member countries later this year.

A news conference with five of the experts who took part in the OECD meeting --GeoHazards president Brian Tucker, Wilfred Iwan from the California Institute of Technology, Mauro Dolce of the University of Basilicata in Italy, Carlos Ventura of the University of British Columbia, and Robin Spence of Cambridge University in the U.K. -- will be held at the WCEE conference in Vancouver on Tuesday 3 August 2004 at 12.30 p.m.

For further information, journalists are invited to contact Sandra Wilson from the OECD Washington office (tel: + 1 202 785 38 66), Hannah von Ahlefeld, OECD Programme on Educational Building (tel: + 33 1 45 24 96 70), or go to . The publication is available to journalists on the password protected website . To obtain a password, please contact the OECD Media Relations Division .

Expert panel - Biographical Summaries

Brian E. Tucker, GeoHazards International
Brian Tucker has a Masters degree in Public Policy from Harvard University and a PhD in Earth Sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His professional career began as a research scientist at Scripps and later in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, MIT. He later worked as Deputy Chief of the California Division of Mines and Geology. In 1991, he and colleagues in Japan and the United States founded GeoHazards International (GHI), a non-profit organisation that aims to reduce death and suffering from geological hazards in the world’s most at-risk communities ( Since then, GHI has contributed to improving seismic safety in Quito, Ecuador; Kathmandu, Nepal; Tijuana, Mexico; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Antofagasta, Chile; and the five Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. Currently, GHI is working to improve the earthquake risk management of cities in India, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In 2000, he received a decoration from the King of Nepal for GHI’s work in the country, and in 2002 he was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Wilfred Iwan, California Institute of Technology
Wilfred Iwan has a PhD from Caltech. He was the founding President and is presently a member of the Board of Directors of the Consortium Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE).  He served two separate terms as Chair of the California Seismic Safety Commission, and as Chair of the US National Research Council Committee on Hazard Mitigation Engineering and Board on Natural Disasters.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the non-profit World Seismic Safety Initiative (WSSI) which was created to support seismic safety actives under the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) and served as Co-Chair of the US Delegation for the closing of the International Decade.  He is Professor of Applied Mechanics and Director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. He has authored over 150 papers and articles.  He is actively involved in seismic research in the United States as well as in Japan and China.

Carlos Ventura, University of British Columbia
Carlos Ventura was born in Guatemala. He has a PhD from Rice University in Houston, Texas. Between 1984 and 1986, he worked as a structural engineer in the Department of Fixed Offshore Structures, Marine Division, at Brown & Root Inc., in Houston, Texas. Between 1986 and 1992, he was employed as an earthquake engineer at the California Division of Mines and Geology, Strong Motion Instrumentation Program (SMIP), Sacramento, California. He was responsible for planning the installation of earthquake recording instruments in buildings, bridges and other structures. This work also included analysis and interpretation of records obtained from structures during strong earthquakes. Since 1992, he has been a faculty member of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He has been involved in teaching and research work on structural dynamics and earthquake engineering. He is currently Director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Facility at the university, and is active on seismic issues in Latin America.

Robin Spence, Cambridge University
Robin Spence has a PhD from Cambridge University. After several years of structural design practice with Ove Arup and Partners, he spent two years teaching at the University of Zambia, followed by two years as Research Officer for the Intermediate Technology Development Group, researching small-scale building materials technology in Africa and India. Currently, he is a structural engineer and Professor of Architectural Engineering in the Department of Architecture at Cambridge University. He is also a Director and past Chairman of Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd. In September 2002, he was elected President of the European Association of Earthquake Engineering for a four-year term. He is also a Fellow of Magdalene College, and has been a Director and Joint Director of the Martin Centre since 1985. His principal research and consultancy interest is construction technology choice and disaster risk assessment and mitigation. He has worked closely with colleagues in many countries on understanding construction technology choices in development and post-disaster situations.

Mauro Dolce, University of Basilicata
Mauro Dolce has a PhD in civil engineering from the University of Rome "La Sapienza". He began his professional career as an engineer in the Italian railway company FS, and then as a research assistant at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of L’Aquila, Italy. He has been a professor of Earthquake Structural Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Basilicata in Italy since 1994. His research activities relate to structural and earthquake engineering as well as structural dynamics problems, which are based on theoretical and numerical elaborations and on experimental tests carried out at the Laboratory of DiSGG and other European laboratories. Since 1984, he has been actively involved in the activities of the European Association for Earthquake Engineering, Italian earthquake congresses and committees, and national co-ordinator of the SAVE project. He has developed seven patents, five of which are devices for passive control of seismic vibrations.


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