Earthquakes: Guidelines on preparing, responding and recovering



Of all large natural disasters, earthquakes and their secondary hazards have claimed the largest number of lives in recent years. Between 2000 and 2008 alone, an average of 50,184 people were killed every year due to seismic events (IFRC, World Disasters Report, 2010). The years 2010 and 2011 have been particularly harsh reminders of this fact with the devastating earthquake in Haiti and the massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency in Japan.
These were just two among a series of other major seismic events across the world.

Objectives of these guidelines

Despite the many similarities that earthquakes share with other disasters, they differ on many counts.
These guidelines aim at drawing on the experiences of members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (the Movement) and other humanitarian actors in preparing for, responding to and recovering from earthquakes in the last decade. While directed primarily at members of the Movement, these guidelines would be of relevance to all humanitarian agencies and personnel.
These guidelines are not intended to be a stepby-step guide to preparing for, responding to and recovering from earthquakes. It is assumed that the readers are familiar with the processes and operations involved in a humanitarian response. What this document attempts to do is to highlight issues and aspects that are particular to earthquakes and that need to be taken into consideration. Given the high likelihood of occurrence, the challenges of responding to earthquakes in urban settings have been given particular attention.


These guidelines were developed based on reviews of preparedness measures in areas at risk of earthquakes and reviews and evaluations of response and recovery operations following recent earthquakes.
Consultations and interviews with representatives of the IFRC and of National Societies were also carried out to support the preparation of these guidelines.
Field visits were made to Japan and Nepal. These included consultations with key stakeholders and interactions with representatives of the Japanese and Nepal Red Cross Societies.


These guidelines are divided into three broad sections based on activities related to earthquakes. These are preparing, responding and recovering. While these divisions address major blocks of activities during a specified time, it is important to remain aware that the developmental approach to disaster management links all of these as a continuous process. In addition, this document contains a section on cross-cutting issues.
These guidelines are supported with evidence of good practices and examples from across the world.
For the convenience of readers, key actions are summarized in the form of a checklist at the end of each section.