I received an email this morning, which may be a common question and the answer may be of interest to other Tehranies, especially as we are having many earthquakes around the world lately:
Email from Ms. XX:
Dear Shideh & Shawhin,
I was surfing internet to find information on Tehran earthquake and came across to your weblog. As a solution President announced that 5 million people should leave Tehran enabling his government to control the aftermath of Tehran earthquake.
As a professional person I can not simply escape from Tehran on fear of death. I rather prefer to find a better solution. Do you have any suggestion ?
I will appreciate if you could provide me with alternative solutions to minimize the effects of such possible disaster.
My response to Ms. XX:
Thank you for your email and great question.
This is a complicated matter and I’m sure many people in Iran and IIEES (International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology in Tehran) are working on a reasonable plan for effective disaster management of the city. I am not sure, however, what the extent of their research and implementation of their research results are. This is a complex and difficult problem everywhere in the world and even San Francisco has many problems in terms of its policies/plans/reaction during disasters.
To give you a quick answer: it is difficult to propose an effective disaster management plan for a city like Tehran with so many complications. I have a few ideas but they need to be studied extensively from many different perspectives. On a personal level, however, there are easier instructions to follow. I would not recommend leaving the city as a feasible option for most people, like you. The concentration of opportunities and resources has made it impossible for many to leave the city. If the president wants to see 5 M people leave, he should start a long-term plan of better redistributing the country’s resources (may be he is already doing that, I’m not sure).
So, I completely understand your concern. If you want to stay in Tehran, I suggest you contact “nezam e mohandesi” or the city authorities and find out how you can have them check the structural integrity of your building (where you live and where you work). They might have guidelines or they may send you a city inspector to help you figure out whether your building requires seismic retrofit or has obvious design flaws that are dangerous. If you do require retrofit, I highly recommend that you invest in fixing your building (no matter how much it costs) and also try to educate others about the risk of a major earthquake in Tehran and what they can do.
Also, please see the instructions on what to do during, before, and after an earthquake on FEMA’s website:
Make sure you know what to do during a major earthquake well and also read the instructions on what you can do prior to an earthquake. It is very important. Aside from these, you are at risk constantly but most of us are facing high risks regularly every where in the world. Getting into a fatal accident while driving, for example, is a much higher risk that we are exposed to regularly. Here in San Francisco, we are also facing a high risk of an earthquake and we have bad structures that may collapse. So, don’t worry excessively. Just be prepared for the earthquake, know that it will happen, do what you can in terms of educating others about the risk and what they can do to help. Remember that it is not the earthquake that is the killer, it is our buildings.
On a larger level, we need to make people aware of their responsibilities to their city and society at large. If you know engineers, architects, contractors, and “besaas befroosh” people who may not be practicing in an ethical manner, please communicate your fear of earthquake with them and ask them to be responsible in their design. A corrupt system is very dangerous in construction. I think even one conversation can be effective at times.