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

Global ISDR


Review of the Impact of the Risk Assessment Tools for Diagnosis of Urban Areas against Seismic Disasters (RADIUS) Project


In 1996, the Secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) launched the RADIUS initiative. The main mission of this three- year program was to promote worldwide activities for the reduction of seismic disasters in urban areas, particularly in developing countries. The primary goal of RADIUS was to help people understand the seismic risk and raise public awareness at the city level, in the form of long-term, institutionalized programs to manage earthquake risk The direct objectives were:

  • To develop earthquake damage scenarios and action plans in nine case-study cities selected world-wide;
  • To conduct a comparative study to understand urban seismic risk around the world, and;
  • To promote information exchange for seismic risk mitigation at the city level; and
  • To develop practical tools for seismic risk management, which could be applied to any earthquake prone city in the world.

The results of applying the tools to be developed were to be useful for decision makers and government officials, who are responsible for disaster prevention, as well as for communities, NGO’s, and citizens. The project compriseds different categories: case- study(1), member(2) and associate(3) cities. , as well as individuals and institutions, and RADIUS team members. The case-study cities were Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Antofagasta (Chile), Bandung (Indonesia), Guayaquil (Equador), Guayaquil (Equador), Izmir (Turkey), Skopje (TFYR Macedonia), Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Tijuana (Mexico), and Zigong (China)Antofagasta (Chile), Bandung (Indonesia), Izmir (Turkey), and Skopje (TFYR Macedonia).

The RADIUS initiative was completed in 1999 and the Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the successor arrangement to the IDNDR Secretariat, published the summary report and produced the CD-ROM, containing all the final reports and the tools developed through the initiative(4).

In order to assess the impact of the RADIUS case studyproject, a review was performed inon the nine case-study cities .in which RADIUS implemented full case studies This review, conducted one year after the completion of the project, indicated that RADIUS was an important contribution to risk management initiatives in those cities(5).

Review of the impact of the RADIUS project

Two years after the completion of the project, another review was conducted in February 2002; this time among all the participating citiescategories (case-study, member, and associate cities) as well as the individuals and institutions who were involved in the project or who received the CD-ROM, and the RADIUS expert team members.

The main objectives of this review were:

  • To estimate the actual impact of the RADIUS project;, the
  • To reactivate the global network of city representatives that was created during the implementation of RADIUS;, and the
  • To identify needs and gathering of ideas, options, and potential official support for the continuation of RADIUS related activities.

The review concentrated on studying three specific areas: a) advances in risk management in the cities that participated in the project, b) utilization and usefulness of the practical tools produced by the project, and c) future initiatives to promote risk management. The review produced the following results:

  1. The review of the advances in risk management in the cities looked at the use of project activities generated by RADIUS, and the main constrains for risk management activities. The use of the Earthquake Scenarios and Risk Management Action Plans generated the greatest amount of interest and awareness, and resulted in the largest number of concrete actions in the case- study cities, while a limited use of the activities in the member cities, and no use of the activities in the associate cities. For instance, in the case-study city of Tijuana, a permanent program was initiated to implement the RADIUS produced action plan carrying the name of RADIUS, while the city of Antofagasta prepared a new Regulatory Plan and revised the City Emergency plan based on RADIUS. This suggests that a relatively extended time of presence and interactive work of international experts is useful to generate the necessary momentum for continuation.

    Other new initiatives reported by the cities included regulation and planning programs implemented by local authorities, creation or strengthening of local institutions, and the application of the RADIUS methodology to neighboring cities. Antofagasta, for example, supported the creation of an NGO that would coordinate risk management activities in other cities. Again, the case-study cities where much more active than other cities. The main constraints for risk management activities were created by the lack of financial resources, and the lack of awareness and commitment of the local authorities. As the most important part of the financial resources is community based, the lack of awareness posed a serious problem.

  2. The review of the utilization and usefulness of the practical tools produced by the project looked at the dissemination of the RADIUS tools, applications and usefulness of the RADIUS tools, and possible modifications. The international dissemination of the material was relatively effective, but the local dissemination was rather ineffective. The RADIUS cities used the tools in a limited scale and for purposes that are different from the ones for which the tools were designed, for example, only 6 % of the cities used the tools to increase public awareness. Most of the representatives found the tools easy to use, although 30 % indicated that some additional guidance would be very useful. Suggestions for possible modifications included greater flexibility of the tools for a better adjustment to local conditions. Several earthquake specialists pointed out, for instance, that the tool was too general and simplistic, but one should keep in mind that RADIUS was designed to produce quick, rough earthquake damage estimates that should be used to raise public awareness but could not replace more precise studies.

  3. The review of the future initiatives to promote risk management proposed three possible initiatives under consideration, (Are the following the 3 initiatives under consideration?) comparison of the relative risk among cities, a global database of urban earthquake risk, and a RADIUS network of cities. The majority of the participants (70 %) thought a comparison among cities would be useful, but would not ignite action. The other 30 % pointed out that local people would not learn anything from such a comparison, and that the main beneficiaries would be the international organizations and not the cities.

The global database of urban earthquake risks received the support of 89 % of the participants, and the initiative was considered to be attractive and potentially useful. The RADIUS network of cities was approved unanimously and enthusiastically. Furthermore, the participants gave numerous other suggestions, covering the following main categories: a) increase of awareness of the existing risk and available solutions, b) application of the RADIUS experience to other cities and adaptation of the radius methodology, c) provision of support to local initiatives and people, and d) promotion of the implementation of specific risk management action in cities worldwide.

The review produced some of the following recommendations:

  • A relatively extended time of international experts is useful for the necessary momentum.
  • Only local funding can produce sustainable solutions, as international aid is too insecure and to unstructured.
  • Establish mechanisms to ensure that RADIUS users clearly understand the characteristics, scope, and purpose of the tools, and make sure that the tools scope and purpose is clear to the technical community.
  • Strengthen the RADIUS network of cities, because this global community could form a movement strong enough to catch the attention of local and international leaders and push risk management into the domestic and international agendas.
  • Keep the RADIUS name in future related initiatives for this name has achieved its own identity and prestige.
  • And finally, make sure that any new initiative considers, and is in the closest possible coordination with, existing plans and programs of local authorities and city institutions, as well as other international initiatives.

Despite some of the problems that were encountered during the project, there has been a significant increaseimprovement in the management of earthquake risk in the RADIUS cities. According to the analysis of the RADIUS project, the cities believe that the project contributed significantly to the progress achieved in each city. According to one of the city representatives:

‘RADIUS taught all of us the importance of collaboration among all the concerned people and institutions.’ (Ms. C. Rojas, City Representative, Antofagasta, Chile).

Further information on the RADIUS project,
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  1. Nine cities were selected world-wide to carry out a 18-month case study with financial and technical assistance.
  2. 74 member cities participated in a comparative study to better understand the urban seismic risk around the world.
  3. 35 cities, which had carried out a seismic risk assessment or wer in the process of doing so, contributed to the project through the exchange of information.
  4. ISDR Secretariat, RADIUS, Risk Assessment Tools for Diagnosis of Urban Areas against Seismic Disasters, 2000
  5. ISDR Secretariat, Year-Later Evaluation of the RADIUS Case-study Cities, 2001