A month after the earthquake: the lessons

Natural disasters have taught us how to prepare for future catastrophes and lessen their impact
Several buildings in the Condesa quarter are still inhabitable, like this one in Amsterdam 25 – Lucía Godínez/EL UNIVERSAL
19/10/2017
09:00
Mexico City
Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL
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Thirty days ago, just like 32 years ago, the capital city of our country was stricken by a strong earthquake which left several damages in its wake. This time, deaths weren't counted by the thousands: dozens of people perished, but there were thousands of victims. The number of collapsed buildings was less than that of 1985, however, this time populations like Morelos, Puebla, and the State of Mexico were affected as well.

Previous earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters have taught us how to prepare for future catastrophes and lessen their impact. One of them is the consolidation of a civil protection culture which didn't exist decades ago; the other, the constant update of construction standards in Mexico City.

What were the lessons of the earthquake on September 19, 2017?

The most important one, probably, is that the resources spent on technology to study and prevent earthquakes will never be a bad investment. The seismic alert is a good example, with over 11 thousand speakers installed throughout Mexico City. Maintenance and its improvement will always have to be a priority. Even if it is hard for the early warning system to activate in advance when the epicenter of a quake is close to Mexico City, the earthquake on September 7 proved it can give the population up to two full minutes to evacuate or take shelter.

While it was after the earthquake that the authorities finally shared a public version of the Risk Atlas of Mexico City, now we know there are several geological faults running below the City, and this knowledge is a valuable source when talking about prevention.

We learned that even if construction regulations and standards have toughened, they are not impervious. The case of the Enrique Rebsamen School has become the symbol of how easy it is to illegally expand a building, in cahoots with public officials, allegedly.

The millennials – those who most believed aloof – proved that in times of crisis, they can be there for the others. The Ministry of National Defense has informed that starting on 2018, half of the military service will be focused on Civil Protection training – a noteworthy proposal, indeed.

We learned insurance culture is a necessity and that we have to find methods to insure most housing buildings – if not all – against natural disasters.

We have the lessons. What matters is how we integrate them into our daily life, how we turn them into laws – for all our sakes.

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