Housing is one of our main topics of interest. In Bucharest, where we are based, and the overall south-east areas of the country, seismic vulnerability adds to housing challenges.
This year’s high-intensity earthquakes in Turkey have shown the devastating effects these natural disasters can have on local communities – casualties, massive material losses, families left overnight with nothing.
Over the previous years, we have conducted several specific actions dedicated to raising awareness of seismic vulnerable housing challenges. We started these actions after Colectiv, which marked us as an witness-event of our city’s vulnerability to disasters. We geo-referenced the buildings that have been object to a technical expertise and assigned emergency classes or categories and marked them on an easy-to-explore map on the (now defunct) seismic-alert.ro page. We drafted a questionnaire to evaluate the tenancy situation of red-dot buildings in Bucharest, and we applied it in field work with the support of students from the Faculty of Geography in Bucharest, coordinated by our colleague Bogdan Suditu. We wanted to find out how many people live in red-dot blocks of flats. We counted over 12,000 thousand people without even being able to reach out to all red-dot buildings – a horrifying threshold! We have met people who live day by day with the fear that this could be the day of the great earthquake, but also others who are completely unaware of the risk situation in which they are.
We edited and released a brochure explaining to homeowner associations what support mechanisms they can access for retrofitting their condominiums. And, later on, we launched an album titled “Bucharest, The Vulnerable City”, made with the help of photographer Cătălin Alexa (www.imagist.ro) and edited by Gruia Bădescu and Raluca Munteanu. The album presents a comprehensive gallery of red dot buildings in Bucharest and brings together commentaries and examples from other countries about the challenges of seismic vulnerability of the built stock and risk communication and awareness practices.
In 2019 the members of our core team – Marina, Bogdan, Mihai and Ana – were co-opted as independent experts in the wider team that worked on the analysis and proposal of strategic directions for the National Strategy for Seismic Risk Reduction, a project implemented by the World Bank in support of Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration. A huge, multidisciplinary effort that made us even more aware of the scale of the risk we are exposed to as a country, and of the urgency – and complexity – of the measures needed to be taken. The results of this work are available online on the MRDPA website here.
There is so much work to be done for reducing seismic risk in Romania, with efforts needed from many institutions but also civil society members. So we rolled up our sleeves and brought forward our contributions, as civic initiatives.
Last year we worked with Code4Romania, as part of a project supported by the Bucharest Community Foundation – Prepared Bucharest program, to put together the e-cutremur.ro platform. This is – and will remain – a content aggregation platform, managed by Code4Romania, covering seismic risk management in all its 4 dimensions (1) risk awareness and reduction, (2) emergency preparedness, (3 ) emergency response and (4) post-disaster recovery. It is a ready-to-launch civic platform that would integrate and coordinate information (including) in the event of an earthquake, thus supporting response and recovery interventions.
In the framework of the same project, we edited two information brochures for owners and tenants in Bucharest which we are launching publicly today – information contained is otherwise valid across all parts of country exposed to seismic risk.
We are also launching the website www.acasainsiguranta.ro, also developed with support of Code4Romania. This is a resource page for homeowners, homeowner associations, and condominium managers around the country gathering resources on seismic risk awareness and earthquake-vulnerable housing. We aim to reach, through networks of partners, as many owners of seismic vulnerable homes in the country as possible, and to call for action for conducting technical expertise and retrofitting. We are open for partners to grow and promote this website, which also includes resources we have made in previous years.
Brochures for landlords and tenants can be downloaded here (Romanian language only): I am a landlord in Bucharest, seismic risk capital of Romania // I am a renter in Bucharest, seismic risk capital of Romania.