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A Game for Lebanese Children: Learning how to Avoid Risks while Playing

“I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the success of this project and invite my fellow colleagues to double their efforts  as we have been entrusted with the safety of our peoples’ lives”, the Lebanese Civil Defence Director General Raymond Kattar declared  in his intervention during the  ceremony for the closure of  the awareness raising project Edu-games for Children implemented within the EU-funded PPRD South programme, organised at the UNESCO Conference Palace in Beirut on December 2011.

“The European Union through PPRD South has generously provided a donation of 40,000 euro for the project to strengthen awareness in Lebanon. Our aim is that this project, the first of its kind in Lebanon, reaches the largest possible number of citizens, especially children” he added.

The aim of the final event was to distribute -  in front of hundreds of teachers, representatives from the Ministry of Education, Civil Defence officials and media  -  the 125,000 CDs with edu-games, produced in English, French and Arabic and available now also on the Civil Defence website www.lebanesecivildefence.com/civilguardians/.

The overall objective of this  project was the production of CDs with computer games  addressed to 125,000 children  from 7 to 10 years of age which are going to be distributed all over the country, and aimed to teach how to avoid and react against most of the dangers that a child can face (earthquakes, fires, landslides, sea and mountain precautions,  electricity  and fire risks, etc.).

During her speech, EU Ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst thanked the Civil Defence. “We are in your hands as far as security is concerned”, she said and went on by adding that “also through such a small action as this project, we are giving  some tools to children to get knowledge and help make aware their parents about risks and disasters.  I am sure this will have an impact, and I myself want to try and play with it”.

The Edu-games for Children, supported by the PPRD South Programme, is one of the awareness raising projects that were and are implemented in 5 Programme Partner Countries (Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Montenegro and occupied Palestinian territory) thanks to a total budget of 200,000 euro.
Friday, 06 January 2012
(General News)
12. The provision of the Seveso II Directive for preventing domino effects tsunami-chemical hazard

Although at the EU level there are several legal acts that address the risk of natural hazards triggering technological disasters (natech risk) through rules governing industrial establishments housing hazardous materials, there is no specific legislation or any type of guidelines that encompasses the entire natech disaster risk assessment and management – says the report “State of the Art in Natural Hazard Triggering a Technological Disaster (NATECH) Risk Management prepared by the European Commission Joint Research Centre and the UNISDR.

The report investigates on the interactions between natural disasters and simultaneous technological accidents, identifies main problems in natech risk management and emergency response and outlines a set of key strategies for natech risk reduction.

The key EU legal text governing prevention of chemical accidents is the Seveso II Directive (98/82/EC). Its aim is to: “Prevent major accidents which involve dangerous substances, and to limit their consequences for man and the environment with a view to ensuring high levels of protection throughout the Community in a consistent and effective manner.”

Under the Seveso II Directive industrial facilities that store, use or handle dangerous substances are required to set out a major-accident prevention policy, write and submit a safety report, and establish emergency plans in the case of an accidental chemical release.

Although the Seveso II Directive does not have any specific requirements for natech risk management, it calls for the analysis of external events - including natural hazards - for carrying out preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of an accident and to establish preparedness measures in case an accident occurs.

Also Article 8 of the Directive which calls for the analysis of potential domino effects of a major accident, and Article 12 which requires that prevention of chemical accidents and mitigation of their potential consequences be taken into account in land use policies, indirectly address natech risk management.

At the national level EU countries have specific regulations in place for chemical accident prevention and to protect citizens from the impacts of natural hazards. However, the JRC-UNISDR report indicates that risk management and emergency response measures in place for chemical accident prevention during day-to-day plant operation do not guarantee protection against natural disaster forces unless these are explicitly considered and prepared for.

The EU countries considered in the report (Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Sweden ) have systems in place for reporting chemical accidents, but not for natechs specifically. They have maps of natural hazards and may keep an inventory of hazardous installations, however none of them reported natech hazard maps.

Finally, all the countries indicated a growing awareness of the problems associated with natech disasters and natech risk reduction, with some countries taking initial steps to implement specific natech disaster prevention measures such as Italy, France and Portugal.
Thursday, 12 May 2011
(General News)
13. It is rare that just one cause leads to a chemical accident, usually there is a combination of factors - UNEP document says

To prevent chemical accidents, it is necessary to identify and understand the hazards associated with the chemical substances and their processes as well as the potential scenarios which may lead to an accident – indicates the recent UNEP Guidance Document “A Flexible Framework for Addressing Chemical Accident Prevention and Preparedness”. These scenarios include the effects of extreme weather conditions or seismic events - earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption.

The impact of extreme weather conditions or seismic events – the document says - on chemical installations can damage the plant construction or lead to a break down in the supply of energy or utilities. This may in turn lead to chemical accidents. Proposed prevention mechanisms include careful assessment of the siting of hazardous installations which should take account of local natural features (rivers which may flood, steep slopes prone to avalanche or mud slide, coastal plains exposed to tsunami risk). The construction of installations should also take account of the possible natural hazards and the expected weather conditions in the geographical region, including extremes. Provisions should be made for shutting down the installation in an emergency due to extreme natural conditions.

This Guidance document was developed by a group of international experts, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (UNEP-DTIE), as part of its work pursuant to the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) adopted in February 2006.

The aim of SAICM is to “achieve by 2020, the use and production of chemicals in ways that lead to the minimisation of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.” One of the identified work areas of SAICM is “formulation of prevention and response measures to mitigate the environmental and health impacts of emergencies involving chemicals.”
Thursday, 12 May 2011
(General News)
Video explains risk of flash flooding and provides guidelines on how to react

A new video on the risk of flash flooding in the northern Mediterranean region has just been released by the EU funded research project IMproving Preparedness and RIsk maNagemenT for flash floods and debriS flow events (IMPRINTS). This video, which is targeted towards the general public, explains the reason for the increasing flash flooding risk in the region along with the forecasting and warning systems in place in the EU and suggests possible measures to cope with such risk and take fast action in emergency situations.

See the video: http://www.imprints-fp7.eu/en/dissemination/125-flash-floods-and-debris-flows-risk-management-part-1-living-with-the-risk

The research project IMPRINTS managed by Spain together with Italian, French, Dutch and Swiss organizations and the Institute for Environment and Sustainability of the EC Joint Research Centre based in Ispra, Italy, is working towards the improvement of preparedness and operational risk management of flash flood events. It studies innovative methods and tools to be used by emergency agencies responsible for the management of flash flood risk. In particular, the project is working on the development of an early flash floods warning system on the basis of the European Floods Alert System (EFAS). The IMPRINTS early warning system is mostly based on probabilistic forecasting using climatology data provided by the Cosmo Consortium. These data already cover Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Croatia, the western part of Turkey and the northern areas of Algeria and Tunisia. Therefore, the possible future extension of the IMPRINTS’ results to some of the PPRD South countries might be considered.


Sunday, 13 February 2011
(General News)
Haiti's disaster of engineering . “After all it was the buildings, not the earthquake that killed 220,000 people in Haiti”. Peter Haas

PPRD South received the link to this remarkable video from Mr. Sálvano Briceño, Director of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR). “This video - he says - shows very well the main earthquake related problem that needs to be tackled: building safety. It is about Haiti but it is applicable to any poor urban area in the world”.

Mr. Briceño also suggests to focus the forthcoming PPRD South earthquakes workshop on this key and urgent risk reduction issue.

"Haiti was not a natural disaster - says Peter Haas in the video - It was a disaster of engineering." As the country rebuilds after January's deadly quake, are bad old building practices creating another ticking time bomb? Haas's group, AIDG, is helping Haiti's builders learn modern building and engineering practices, to assemble a strong country brick by brick.

See the video at: http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_haas_haiti_s_disaster_of_engineering.html
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
(General News)
Special feature - Where do we stand on earthquake resistant building standards in the Mediterranean?

The New Zealand benchmark

On Saturday 4 September at 4:35 AM the city of Christchurch in New Zealand was struck by a violent earthquake classified with magnitude 7.1 of the Richter scale, an earthquake with a similar destructive power than the January 2010 Haiti earthquake. In New Zealand no deaths were registered, only two persons were seriously wounded although around one hundred thousand houses were affected by the earthquake. The initially estimated total amount of damage cost was less than two billion euro (the damage cost in Haiti was initially estimated at 9 billion euro, in L’Aquila was estimated at 12 billion euro and in Chile between 15 and 20 billion euro). Two days after the earthquake only 200 people were still staying in emergency shelters.

One of the reasons for the relatively small amount of damage and the low number of victims is the high level of building standards implemented in the country. Following the destructive Napier earthquake that struck New Zealand in 1931 causing 256 deaths and thousands of wounded, the country created an insurance system to cover the damages of such disasters and a national commission with the task of defining proper building standards in view to reduce the impact of earthquakes. These standards didn’t simply remained on paper. A special fund was set up with the objective to support the enforcement of the new building code. For more than 70 years no destructive earthquake struck the country, yet the anti-seismic building code continued to be developed and strictly enforced all around the country.

What about anti-seismic building codes in the EU?

In order to lead to more homogeneous levels of safety in construction in Europe, the European Commission issued in 2003 the Recommendation on the implementation and use of Eurocodes. The Eurocodes are a set of European design codes for building and civil engineering works. Conceived and developed over the past 30 years, they are intended to satisfy the essential requirements of resistance and stability, as well as safety in case of fire and earthquake. Member States are encouraged to adopt, promote and contribute to the development of the Eurocodes that are intended to be mandatory for European public works and likely to become the de-facto standard for the private sector – both in Europe and world-wide. In particular, the Eurocode 8 explains how to make building and civil engineering structures resistant to earthquakes.

The EU Member Countries are currently incorporating the Eurocodes in the national regulations through the definition of the National Standards and Annexes.

And the situation in the Mediterranean?

To encourage scientific and technical co-operation for the improvement of structural design standards and the harmonization of construction products between Mediterranean Partners Countries and the European Union Member States, in November 2006, the European Commission organized a workshop on “EUROCODES: Building the Future in the Euro-Mediterranean Area” in collaboration with the NATO ”Science for Peace and Security” Programme.

During the workshop special attention was paid to the improvement of safety in construction, and particularly to the contribution of modern seismic design standards to earthquake risk mitigation. The Workshop was attended by high-level representatives of the National Authorities, National Standardization Bodies, Academia and Industry from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Albania. 

The specific situation of participating Mediterranean countries on the availability of seismic design guidelines was reviewed along with their technical needs for reducing the gaps with the European Union in the standardization of principles and requirements for achieving safety, serviceability and durability of structures.

The conclusion of the workshop highlighted that:

in some Mediterranean countries the Eurocodes are already used, several countries are planning their direct implementation, a number of companies that participate in international construction projects are using the Eurocodes, there are universities offering courses on Eurocodes, EU and NATO cooperation programmes would be the best option for funding scientific and technical co-operation for reducing existing gaps in anti-seismic design and building standards


Highlights on earthquake resistant building standards in some Mediterranean countries – according to the presentations made at the 2006 Eurocodes workshop and the national Hyogo Framework for Action reports

The first national Algerian code for the design of earthquake resistant buildings was enforced in 1983 following the 7.3 El Asnam earthquake of 1980. Before that date the French building code was used in Algeria with no specific provision for earthquake resistant buildings. The 1980 code was based on the American building code and was revised in 1988, in 1999 and in 2003 after the devastating Boumerdes earthquake. These revisions were done taking into account the Eurocode standards. In 2003 a new seismic zoning for Algeria was prepared extending the high seismicity zone and limiting, in this zone, the utilization of the reinforced concrete frame with masonry walls to buildings with two storeys and strongly recommending the use of “perpendicular” walls. The difficulties encountered in Algeria with the incorporation of the Eurocode in the national building standards concerned the required high quality construction material which is not easily available in the Mediterranean, and the fact that the Eurocodes were developed in relation with the construction conditions of the European countries and do not address technical problems typical of the Mediterranean countries such as the characteristics of the soil. At the 2006 workshop, Algeria called for improved technical cooperation with the EU on the adaptation of the provisions of the Eurocode 8 to the characteristics of the Mediterranean construction sector in view of effectively incorporating them into the national building standards.


Following the February 2004 Al Hoceima earthquake, Morocco set up a National Committee on Earthquake Engineering to ensure the  enforcement of the earthquakes resistance requirements of the national building code, which was established in year 2000. According to a 2005 survey, the Moroccan building code for earthquake resistant buildings was not being applied by most of the Moroccan engineers and architects.

72% of the building owners declined the use of the code. 55% of the technical studies and engineering offices applied it only occasionally or at all. 50% of them never made anti-seismic calculations, 98% couldn’t do them and only 2% resulted able to do them. These results were mostly due to the fact that engineers and architects were not sufficiently trained on the application of the code and that their own computational tools were not adequate.


A building code was first enforced in Egypt in 1964, yet the first comprehensive building code covering concrete structures, soil mechanics & foundation and electrical connections in buildings was published in 1980. The provisions of calculations of the seismic effects on buildings and bridges in the Egyptian building code were completely revised in 2001 and 2006 also taking into account the Eurocode 8. According to the new building code, Egypt is subdivided into five seismic zones. In seismic zones 4 and 5, unreinforced masonry is not permitted and it is strongly suggested to use reinforced concrete frames with masonry walls.

During the 2006 workshop Egypt expressed interest in cooperating with the European partners on the development and the improved enforcement of codes and standards related to the construction industry.


Tunisia adopted the French earthquake resistant building code which is regularly used by architects and engineers for the design of new buildings. This code is mostly in line with the provision of Eurocode 8 which is also being used for training by national Universities. At the 2006 workshop, Tunisia highlighted its interest to move towards the full adoption of Eurocode 8 provided that training and technical support are made available by the EU to fully incorporate in the code various specific aspects related to the national constructions context.


In Albania, in 2006, the structural design requirements were still based on the 1989 version of the national code. Years 1985-2005 were characterized by the rapid urbanization and the uncontrolled “boom” in the construction sector which was accompanied by the construction of many abusive buildings. In this respect, considering also the country seismicity, the urgent need to revise and update the Building Regulations was recently raised. The adoption of the Eurocodes was considered the best way to accomplish this important task, although the expected increase in the building cost. The possible compensations coming from reduced damages in case of earthquake were considered a reasonable motivation to proceed in this direction. The country requested financial and technical support by the EU for the implementation of the Eurocodes, in particular for the preparation of the National Annexes in a proper format. The adoption of the Eurocodes and its enforcement has been planned through a programme of seminars and technical publications, aimed at helping practitioners in the application of the new regulation.


In Montenegro a 700,000 euro project on “achieving highest safety and technical quality of construction” was recently funded by the EU with the objective of creating the necessary prerequisites for the harmonization of national regulations and standards for structural analysis and design with the regulations and standards of EU. The project also finances the development of the national capacities for the successful adoption, implementation and use of these regulations and standards.


Application of Eurocodes started in Croatia in 1998. Eurocodes were introduced in teaching programmes of structural engineering of Croatian universities, were translated into Croatian and training of professionals started. Relevant National Application Documents and Annexes were prepared defining specific national values (in particular for seismic zoning) and standards in the areas where European standards were not available or were deemed not consistent. The development of the national Annexes was the more demanding task, in particular for Eurocode 8, considering that 92% of the Croatian territory is earthquake prone which is not the case of the majority of the other European countries.


The first earthquake resistant building code was introduced in Israel in 1975. The code “Design provisions for earthquake resistance of structures” was frequently updated and the 2004 version introduced guidelines for seismic resistance assessment and for strengthening existing structures.

Although the code is compulsory by law, very little was done in the country for its enforcement. The fact that there was no severe earthquake in Israel during the last decades also contributed to shift attention from this important aspect for the reduction of the impact of earthquakes.


In Jordan the national building and fire prevention code was first published in 1990. The provisions concerning the seismic risk were only integrated recently and they only concern the construction of new buildings. The provisions related to the reinforcement of old buildings are still to be developed.


In Syria, the first anti-seismic building code was issued in 1995. The code is still being developed in order to mitigate the negative consequences of earthquakes.


The seismic design code of Turkey was revised in 1968, 1975, 1998 and 2007 according to the most advanced international standards. Although Turkey experienced earthquakes with catastrophic consequences, it is believed that the damage did not stem from the weaknesses of the codes but from the insufficient enforcement of seismic design codes: poor construction practices and inadequate inspections. In Turkey, the application of building designs and construction codes is supervised by the municipalities which are mostly not equipped for accomplishing this important task. Following the 1999 earthquakes, the government ratified a new regulation allowing subcontracting private companies for supervising the correct application of building construction codes.

In the wake of the 1999 earthquakes, considering the existence of many buildings which were not constructed according to seismic design codes and were to be considered highly vulnerable in terms of potential seismic damage, the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement set up a commission for revising the Turkish Seismic Design Code and adding a new chapter on seismic safety evaluation and consolidation of existing structures.

The application of Eurocode 8 in Italy was quite difficult due to the presence, in seismic zones, of existing masonry buildings and diffused cultural heritage in the characteristic historic centres. The improvement of the safety level for these buildings should have been addressed taking into account the artistic and cultural importance of the construction. But this was not foreseen in the Eurocode 8 while it was widely considered in the Italian Code whose standards and rules resulted more advanced than the Eurocode 8. This aspect is the result of the Italian experience with earthquakes.

The problem of seismic zones with many existing masonry buildings is not only an Italian problem, it is probably common to all the Mediterranean countries. For this reason the development of the National Italian Annexes to Eurocode 8 may be an important example for all other Mediterranean countries. The Italian experience with the adoption of Eurocode 8 is described in the online publication “Eurocode 8 Perspectives from the Italian Standpoint Workshop” and can be also the possible object of a PPRD South technical assistance action for interested Programme Partner Countries.

Monday, 11 October 2010
Information days on the hazards of sea-bathing in the Algiers province

In preparation on the sea bathing season 2010, the Civil Protection Directorate of the Algiers province organized a series of “information days” on the possible risks linked  to sea-bathing in the crowded beaches of the Algerian capital. “These information days – said commandant Kettab Azzedine of the Civil Protection Directorate – aim to raise the awareness of sea bathers on the possible dangers of bathing and to reduce the number of drowning deaths occurring each summer in the Algiers province”.

The “information days” initiative is a part of a wider prevention and awareness campaign launched during 2010 by the Algiers Civil Protection Directorate. “ We already organized “information days” and “open doors” events in schools, universities and cultural centres, as well as awareness campaigns on the media. Yet, these information days on the beaches are different as we work in direct contact with the sea bathers to teach them how to prevent possible risks and be prepared to face the dangers that they may encounter on the beaches – said lieutenant Sofiane Bakhti, head of the statistics office and communication officer of the Algiers province Civil Protection.

During the “information days”, around thirty officials, officers and doctors of the Civil Protection carefully explained to the sea bathers how to avoid risky behaviors which may lead to drowning. Those behaviors include diving into the sea after long sunbathing (immersion hypothermia and thermal shock), sunstrokes - which are particularly frequent between 12:00 and 16:00 -, sea bathing after a heavy meal, or during the night or after making important physical efforts. Flyers with the basic rules for proper sea bathing and the instructions to be followed in the event of an accident were distributed to the participants to the information days. “We must first of all spread the word on the existence of these risks because most of the sea bathers do not know them at all. - Lieutenant Bakhti said -. Through these actions we aim to build a widespread prevention culture also with the help of the participants who are invited to further disseminate the message to their relatives and friends.

The first results of this initiative are very encouraging. “During June and July 2010, the number of drowning victims in the beaches of the Algerian capital – lieutenant Bakhti indicated - decreased of 50% compared to 2009. Of the 5 persons who died, one drowned in a beach where bathing was not allowed and the other four drowned in beaches where bathing assistance was not available”. Civil Protection agents are present on daily basis on all the 59 beaches of the Algiers province. In the first two months of the 2010 sea bathing seasons they made 2911 intervention which allowed to save the life of 1395 sea bathers and to help 1470 others.

Unfortunately, at national level the number of drowning victims is still very high in Algeria. Sources from the Civil Protection indicate that 77 people drowned in the sea and 69 people drowned in rivers and water reservoirs during June and July 2010. Among the 77 people who drowned in the sea, 49 drowned in places where sea bathing was forbidden – lieutenant Nassim Bernaoui of the communication Department of the General Civil Protection Directorate declared to the newspaper “L’Expression”.

The higher numbers of drowning victims were recorded in the provinces of Oran and Skikda (13 victims each) followed by the province of Mostaganem. More than 60 millions sea bathers visited the Algerian beaches during the first two months of summer 2010. During the same period  the Algerian Civil Protection made 34.883 interventions saving the life of 19.148 people and helping more than 13.000 others.

Monday, 27 September 2010
(General News)
PPRD South workshop on “Information in Emergency and Awareness Raising”

Click here to access to the web page of the event

The EU-funded Programme on Prevention, Preparedness and Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters (PPRD South) is organising its fourth regional workshop on “Information in Emergency and Awareness Raising” which will take place in Amman, Jordan, from 5 to 8 July  2010.

Thursday, 01 July 2010
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