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Officials push for education while Turkey patches up after another earthquake


ANKARA, TURKEY — A 6.6 magnitude earthquake shook the coast of Turkey and Greece on Friday, Oct. 30, killing more than 100 and leaving over 1,000 injured.
The city of Izmir in Turkey experienced the most damage. The latest numbers show 116 dead and 1,033 injured here, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD).
Although AFAD assumes multiple responsibilities, ranging from refugee coordination to humanitarian missions, its biggest role is to assist with national disasters, coordinating the post-disaster response, search and rescue, and offering training to limit disaster damage.

It’s All About the Training

“Although AFAD is trained excessively to report the scene, agency officials hope to limit earthquakes to a simple natural occurrence rather than a disaster with properly educating the public,” says Gamze Yildirim, a social worker at AFAD’s Ankara Provincial Directorate.
“Earthquakes are only considered natural disasters when there are lives affected and property damaged,” adds Yildirim. “With educating the public, we hope to limit earthquakes to geological movements.”
AFAD offers some national training but the majority of the education is given through Provincial Directorates. In Ankara, the AFAD campus is home to two controlled wreck sites to train personnel and an earthquake simulator to train the public.
The education starts as young as three years old and aims to prepare the public for earthquakes by offering pre, during, and post-earthquake response training.
In addition to helping to prepare detailed family emergency plans that highlight members’ duties, AFAD suggests that families prepare earthquake kits with supplies to cover basic needs for at least three days. The majority of AFAD’s training also offers guidance on what to do during an earthquake: Drop to your knees, cover your head and neck, and hold on to a stabilized piece of furniture for balance.
“First thing, though, is to attempt to stay as calm as possible,” said Yildirim. “But we need to prepare to know that staying calm would be against basic human instincts.”
The earthquake simulator is intended to replicate what a safe apartment should look like. The Simulator can imitate earthquakes up to 6.0 magnitude. Photo by Selin Tuter/Ithaca Week

Neglected Buildings, Increased Risk of Death

“Turkey is a country in which earthquakes are very common,” said Ibrahim Seren, the Planning and Mitigation Branch Director in Ankara AFAD. Seren adds that 92% of the country is built around an active fault and at least 95% of the population lives near these.
Although families can prepare for earthquakes as best as they can, not much can be done if buildings are not structurally strong enough, according to Seren. Not only are unsafe buildings more likely to collapse, but they also make it harder for search and rescue personnel to provide their best efforts.
“When the buildings are what we would consider risky, our efforts are required to slow down in order to minimize damage,” says Ercan Horuz, the Search and Rescue Director for Ankara AFAD, adding that the building his team worked on in Izmir was so poorly built that debris turned into dust upon contact. Despite the condition of the wreckage, Horuz and his team were able to rescue a teenage girl 58 hours after the earthquake.
“The location of the building is the first determinant of its residents’ safety,” adds Seren. “On buildings built with a proper license from the government, the work to show the risk of disaster is done previously to the building.”
The controlled wrecks aim to prepare search and rescue teams to operate under unsafe conditions.
Photo by Selin Tuter/ Ithaca Week
After getting this license, contractors have to follow certain codes for building the structure. Often old buildings and those built illegally are likely to see the most damage, according to Seren.
At least 283 buildings had extreme damage caused by the earthquake in Izmir and will be subject to controlled collapses, according to officials. Those who called these buildings home are currently living in government-provided housing.
With the unpredictability of natural disasters, AFAD believes that education and preparedness are key to limiting damage.
“We need to learn to live with the fact that earthquakes can happen at any moment,” said Yildirim. “All we have in our power is to prepare.”
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