A comment from a foreign national in Japan caught my attention last night. She was a language teacher in a school and remarked that she was in the safest possible building as schools in Japan have extra earthquake reinforcement, ie over and above the building code as it applies to other buildings.
Which got me thinking.
Why not retrofit school buildings in NZ to an extra-ordinary high standard and have them double up as emergency centers in the event of a natural disaster? So for example, why not have schools fitted with a number of land lines given that cell phone networks appear to be somewhat fragile in the face of quakes? And why not install sizable septic tanks that sewerage could be diverted to when sewerage systems break? And have robust fresh water storage facilities on site? And independent power supply capabilities? Why not designate schools as permanant repositories of disaster provisions (water, deydrated or tinned food, blankets, tents, toileteries etc)?
I’m guessing it would afford some presence of mind to know that your children were in one of the safest possible places in the event of a quake hitting during day time. And surely it would be preferable in a disaster to know that one should congregate in a properly provisioned local school in the first instance, rather than ‘hanging around’ in wrecked houses or parks waiting for the ad-hoc system of relief centers we have at present to kick in?
There are schools in ‘every’ suburb. They have the facilities to cope with large numbers of people. ‘Everyone’ knows where they are. They are within walking distance for most.
If all schools had a latent autonomous capacity built in to them, then a lot of time and energy presently spent shipping supplies and relief into an area could be saved and a degree of discomfort and confusion as experienced by people after a disaster avoided.
As communities, we already have the basis of a post disaster infrastucture in place. I see no reason not to develop it.