International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

Partners in Action



Cuba Education on Disasters: Training of Civil Engineers and Integral Risk Management in Seismic Areas. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

The southeastern region of Cuba is characterized for being a seismic area, especially in the archipelago due to the closeness of the tectonic plates of both North America and the Caribbean. This constitutes a subduction zone and is therefore one of the most dangerous areas. Studies conducted by the National Center for Seismic Research (CENAIS) reveal that earthquakes that may occur in this region surpass 7 in the Richter scale, with an intensity of up to 9 in the MSK scale over an 80 year cycle.

Due to the impact of earthquakes on engineering works, the role of civil engineers in seismic areas is pivotal for reconstructing vital infrastructure - such as public services and building, industries and commercial areas- and even for dealing with environmental issues. In order to allow communities to better prepare to cope with seismic phenomena, it is important to foster a change in our mindset regarding our efforts to mitigate risks and thereby increase the chances that seismic events do not become disasters.

The school of Civil Engineer at Universidad de Oriente [Eastern University] –main institution responsible for training construction professionals in most of the Cuban eastern region- is undertaking a process for improving its current curriculum, which includes the implementation of Integral Seismic Analyses and Risk Integral Management.

Based on a model developed to adapt this program to the particular characteristics of this region, a methodology for curriculum administration is being designed. This is intended to improve all fields of study involved in the establishment of an integral seismic culture, as well as to incorporate them, in a coherent and harmonious manner, into the current civil engineering curriculum –which has a significant relevance in this region of Cuba. It is also expected to integrate a number of elements related to engineering works, in terms of prevention, mitigation, preparedness, emergency, recovery and reconstruction, into training courses for civil engineers so that their knowledge and work become more transcendent and permanent.

Experience has proven that it is very important to be aware of existing threats, knowing of possible responses to emergency situations. But it is also important to take into account the work to be done to reduce the level of vulnerability in our environment. The impact of a natural phenomenon –in this case, an earthquake-, will be reduced if adequate prevention, mitigation and emergency policies are implemented.

The training of civil engineers on all these aspects will contribute to safeguard our heritage and protect human lives, if a high-intensity earthquake takes place.

For further information, please contact:
By Ingrid Noelia Vidaud Quintana
“Manuel F. Gran” Higher Education Center
Department of Civil Engineering
Universidad de Oriente [Eastern University]
Telephone number: (52) (22) 642908
Fax number: (52) (22) 643186