This week marks the tenth anniversary of
the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The magnitude 7.0 event ruptured a thrust
fault associated with the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system 25 kilometers
(16 miles) west of the capital city Port-au-Prince. This fault system runs
along the length of the Tiburon Peninsula and is no stranger to earthquakes,
with major events impacting Haiti in both 1751 and 1770. This large time gap since
the last major events meant that there was little to no societal memory or
preparedness for earthquakes in the region, making the 2010 event particularly
In the 2010 event, the strong ground shaking lasted 30 seconds and caused extensive collapse of masonry and concrete structures due to both poor design and construction practices, and poor construction material quality. An estimate for the resulting death toll is a staggering 150,000 people.
The scale of the damage and the number of people killed impacted all aspects of life for the remaining inhabitants of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding regions. Vital infrastructure including hospitals, communication systems and transportation facilities (e.g., the airport and port in Port-au-Prince) was severely damaged or destroyed, hampering disaster response. With 250,000 homes severely damaged, more than one million people needed to be housed and fed.
If you are part of the risk management industry, you are acutely aware of the impact catastrophes have. Because of that understanding, many risk professionals actively help communities in need post-disaster, through donations, working with organizations to promote resilience, or through on the ground assistance.
We are fortunate to say that this is true for everyone at RMS. Our values embrace a stronger understanding of risk, building resiliency, and making a positive impact to improve the lives of communities suffering after disasters. One of the ways we live our values is through our annual RMS Impact Trek, where both RMS employees and our clients work together with the social enterprise Build Change in some of the world’s most catastrophe-prone areas (see the 2019 Impact Trek recap video here).
And for the fifth year in
a row, we’re again sponsoring representatives from our clients to join RMS
employees and Build Change and share their skills to build stronger
communities. If you are an RMS client, we have recently invited your
organization to participate in our annual RMS Impact Trek.
In March this year, I joined a team of six RMS employees and three clients travelling to Manila in the Philippines on the annual RMS Impact Trek, as part of an ongoing partnership with Build Change. RMS and Build Change share the aim of increasing resiliency and reducing the impact of disasters, especially in the communities that are most vulnerable to their effects. The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world; its position on both the Pacific Ring of Fire and within the western North Pacific tropical cyclone basin means the country is at risk from both earthquakes and typhoons.
Previous Impact Treks had taken participants to Haiti and Nepal – countries which were at the time recovering from the impacts of catastrophic earthquakes. This year was different, in that Manila has not experienced a recent disaster, and the Trek focused on pre-disaster measures that can be taken to increase resiliency and prepare for the next big event when it inevitably occurs.
Many of us in the catastrophe risk management industry actively help communities in need after natural disasters – through donations, working with organizations to promote resilience, or through on-the-ground assistance. Our intimate understanding of the power of these catastrophes makes us acutely aware of the need to act.
RMS and Build Change
Every year, a team of RMS employees and clients work together to help support our longstanding partner, Build Change, on how to ensure vulnerable communities benefit from safer housing, retrofitting and sound construction methods. The skills that both our employees and clients bring are very complementary to these tasks, and knowledge of risk modeling and analytics, and how to use this knowledge to develop resilience is highly valued.
Following successful visits to Haiti and Nepal in recent years, this year’s RMS Impact Trek visits the Philippines for the first time, with the team (including myself) on the ground in the country from March 17–25.
Build Change have been active in the Philippines since 2013. They have worked on a range of long-term projects from helping to rebuild schools, pre-disaster retrofitting of homes in poorer areas of Manila, through to training technicians in disaster-resistant construction skills in Guiuan in southeast Samar.
This year’s RMS Impact Trek, to help support the work of our longstanding partner, Build Change, heads off to the Philippines on March 17. A team of RMS employees and RMS clients will work together on a 10-day trek with Build Change to learn more about how to ensure communities benefit from safe housing, through the use of retrofitting and sound construction methods. The skills that both our employees and clients bring are very complementary to these tasks, and knowledge of risk modeling and analytics, and how to apply this knowledge to develop resilience is highly valued. For more insight, watch the video below from the 2018 Impact Trek in Nepal.
Callum Higgins is senior product analyst at RMS, and is based in London. He joined fellow employees from RMS and RMS clients on our annual Impact Trek in Nepal during March this year. This is Callum’s account of his time in Nepal.
On the first day of the Impact Trek, we were based at Build Change’s office in Kathmandu, hearing about the various projects the charity is working on in Nepal from Jessica Stanford (Housing Reconstruction Program Manager), as well as the technological innovations Build Change is using to increase the efficiency of their work from Adam McDonald (New Frontier Technology Architect). For day two, the Impact Trekkers were keen to get out of the office and into the city to examine some of the typical property construction in the region and the challenges that Build Change faces in making a greater proportion of these safe from earthquakes.
It has been twelve months since I first visited Nepal, spending two weeks with Build Change, an earthquake engineering charity and RMS partner, to experience first-hand the impact that they are having in the country. Back then, Nepal was only just starting to come to terms with the huge amount of reconstruction work that lay ahead after the 2015 earthquake. While there was hope that the country could “build back better” it was going to be a long, hard road ahead, as I observed in my blog in January this year.
After my first visit, I made the decision to return to this remarkable country and volunteer with Build Change for a longer period. My ambition was to become more involved in the rebuilding work, and help Build Change plan for future post-earthquake reconstruction. Since arriving I have been struck by the contradiction that although so much has progressed, a lot of the same issues are still prevalent and are holding back real change.