Helping People Be Quake-Ready Is Michigan Tech Program Goal

January 25, 2010

Big earthquakes are going to happen, so a program at Michigan Technological University aims to spread knowledge about how people can reduce the death and destruction.

The danger of catastrophic quakes like the one that hit Haiti on Jan. 12 increases along with the rising population in hazardous parts of the globe, university writer Dennis Walikainen said in a story on the school’s Web site.

That risk is the driving force behind Michigan Tech’s three-year master’s degree program in natural hazards mitigation, he said.

“We try to reduce vulnerability,” program director Bill Rose said in a statement. “We can tell people what may happen, and we can help save lives; we increase awareness and the ability for people to save themselves.”

Students spend two of their three years in the program outside the U.S.

According to Rose, students are taught “the importance of talking to people in local schools and government agencies before natural disasters occur,” Walikainen said.

The program also deals with the dangers from volcanoes, floods, landslides and droughts.

During their time abroad, students can help by aiding in “community-level natural hazard education,” said John Lyons, a doctoral student at Michigan Tech who participated in the program in Guatemala.

Guatemalans face the risk of volcanoes as well as earthquakes, he said.

“They had no education or planning,” Lyons said in a statement. “So we went through the basics with the teachers first, teaching them how earthquakes occur and what to do in the event of an earthquake. Then we taught their students about earthquakes and ran the schools’ first earthquake drills.”

A big problem, Lyons said, is that many vulnerable countries are more focused on pressing issues such as poverty and public health.

“Hunger takes precedence,” he said.

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