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


Bogotá is prepared for an earthquake

Seismic Risk in Bogotá

Due to geological and hydro-meteorological conditions and urban development, Bogotá is exposed daily to natural hazards, such as landslides, floods, and earthquakes, as well as man-made hazards, such as wildfires and technological accidents, among others.

Yet, because of the high level of existing vulnerability, the seismic hazard is the one that could generate the greatest political, social, economic, and environmental costs in Bogotá and surrounding municipalities. An event of this kind could cause a national crisis, since so many institutions that store district and national-level information are located in Bogotá.

This city is located in a complex seismic zone, near fault lines such as the Borde Llanero, Romeral, Salinas, and Suarez, among others. According to the General Study of Seismic Hazards in Colombia (INGEOMINAS-AIS-1997), which divides the country into three levels of seismic hazards (high, medium, and low), Bogotá is located in an area of medium seismic risk.

The seismic hazard to the city is determined by the vulnerability of existing buildings and, particularly, that of informal construction in strata 1, 2, and 3. According to the damage scenarios presented in the Seismic Micro-zoning Study in Bogotá (1996), an earthquake that originates along the base of the country's cordillera oriental (Eastern mountain range) could cause the destruction of 10% of the city's buildings, 3,500 to 4,500 deaths, 20,000 to 26,000 injuries, and structural damage valued at some $8.8 million.

Bogotá's Political Commitment to
Comprehensive Risk Management

Since the creation of Bogotá's Emergency Prevention and Response Fund in 1987, the municipality of Bogotá has made important strides in the areas of prevention, risk mitigation, and emergency response preparation. As a result, substantial progress has been made in institutional, regulatory, organizational, and technical development on this issue. Numerous investments and important achievements have been made in terms of raising awareness about existing risks, zoning processes, mitigation efforts, the relocation of families at risk, structural reinforcement, education and community participation, and the strengthening of the District System for Emergency Prevention and Response in the city.

In an attempt to create a more unified, inclusive and participatory city, the development plan entitled “Bogotá without Indifference: A Social Commitment against Poverty and Exclusion” (2004-2008) has given special importance to emergency prevention and response through priority programs related to poverty and hunger reduction among the most vulnerable populations. In this way, the plan has taken into account people and communities which are most vulnerable to natural hazards and, hence, are often most exposed to economic, social, political, and environmental threats.

The current government has continued developing programs of great value to the city, such as risk assessment and analysis, risk reduction in vulnerable areas, emergency response preparation. It has also promoted a number of relevant projects, such as the Earthquake Emergency Response Plan, the Risk Management Strategy, and the District and Regional Plan for Emergency Prevention and Response.

Program to Strengthen Bogotá's capacity to respond to earthquakes of high magnitude

As the governmental coordinating office of the District Emergency Prevention and Response System, in October 2003, Bogotá's Emergency Prevention and Response Agency (DPAE, for its abbreviation in Spanish) led a drill in collapsed structures. The exercise, which lasted 50 hours and included 25 different scenarios, involved 267 local, national, and international rescuers, and an external evaluation group made up of teams from UNDAC, OFDA, and the Miami-Dade County (USA) fire department.

An exhaustive evaluation involving the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), through the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), identified communication, logistics, and institutional coordination as critical areas for improvement in the city's earthquake response capacity.

In this context, Bogotá's Emergency Prevention and Response Agency, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), formulated the Program to Strengthen Bogotá's capacity to respond to earthquakes of high magnitude. Within the next three years, this program hopes to strengthen not only the response capacity of the district, but that of the population at large as well. It further aims to forge links with the departmental government of Cundinamarca and Bogotá's neighboring municipalities, along with the national government, the United Nations, and international donor organizations.

The goal of the program is to develop operational, organizational, regulatory, educational, financial, and logistical intervention strategies, in order to strengthen Bogotá's capacity to respond to earthquakes of high magnitude. It aims to prepare a number of institutional actors and communities who would be involved, as well as to strengthen the working relationships between the District System for Emergency Prevention and Response and departmental, national, and international systems, and with the general population, in the context of a civic culture of prevention.

To achieve these goals, the Program has established four immediate objectives, which include: (1) operations; (2) operational support; (3) capacity building; and (4) recovery and rehabilitation.

The first immediate objective - operations - includes those actions in direct response to disasters aimed at preserving and maintaining the lives of survivors, and ensuring appropriate governance conditions (crisis control). This will guarantee that organizational systems are in place to administer emergency responses, logistics, integrated communications, and institutional and community training. Operations also include additional aspects that may not be directly related to controlling the situation, but are nonetheless essential to effective disaster responses:

  • Capacity to understand and assess the situation in the impact area;
  • Adequate and pertinent information for decision-making process;
  • Precision and formalization of roles, responsibilities, and procedures; and,
  • The planned interaction among all relevant actors.

In this way, the program will establish dynamic and up-to-date damage scenarios and strengthen the information systems needed for adequate responses, the regulatory framework required, financial preparedness, and inter-institutional management.

Efforts to build citizen capacity will include strategies for raising awareness and generating cultural practices of prevention and self-protection among NGOs, the public and private sectors, educational institutions, the media, and the local population.

For the first time, the topic of post-earthquake recovery and rehabilitation will be discussed at the district and national levels with the aim of generating a model for the city of Bogotá that will ensure an intervention plan consistent with the city's development policies.

To complement the aforementioned objectives, the program will also work to strengthen the following areas:

  • The response capacity of Bogotá's Emergency Prevention and Response System;
  • The inter-relationship among response preparation, prevention, and risk mitigation in Bogotá;
  • The relationship among district, national, and departmental systems to respond to emergency situations;
  • The links between the district system and the United Nations and international donor organizations in emergency situations;
  • The relationship between the district system, the private sector, and the population at large to respond to emergency situations; and,
  • The level of awareness and understanding of seismic risk among the population.

The Program will be in effect for a period of three years, from 2005-2007, and will continue to integrate follow-up and harmonization efforts through 2011. Its cost of approximately $5 million will be financed by Bogotá's Emergency Prevention and Response Fund (30%), local development funds and other institutions within the District System of Emergency Prevention and Response (20%), partnerships with the private sector (20%), the national government (2%), and the international donor organizations (15%).For additional information, please contact:

Diana Gonzalez, dgonzalez@fopae.gov.co
International Cooperation
Emergency Prevention and Response Agency (DPAE)