[Outlook]Quake preparation is needed now

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[Outlook]Quake preparation is needed now

The entire country is still in shock after an earthquake occurred last Saturday in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province. The Korea Meteorological Administration announced that the quake measured a moderate 4.8 on the Richter scale.
It was among the strongest quakes to have hit the Korean Peninsula. The fact that earthquakes are taking place more often than before makes people feel increasingly insecure.
The theory that the Korean Peninsula is not safe from earthquakes has been widely established. In fact, since the late 1970s, more than 10 earthquakes measuring around 5.0 on the Richter scale have occurred in the country. Last Saturday’s quake was in line with these disasters.
In light of the fact that quakes reemerge after long periods of time, one could view this one as a random occurence that resulted from tension around the Korean Peninsula.
Experts also maintain that this quake does not mean that the Korean Peninsula has suddenly entered a period in which quakes will occur frequently or become more dangerous.
However, we should still be prepared for strong earthquakes because they usually cause serious damage.
The National Emergency Management Agency is pushing for legislation that would take safety measures for earthquakes. The law would set up measurable goals to enhance public security.
Many obstacles hinder attempts to mitigate the damage from earthquakes in complicated and busy cities.
The country’s future facilities and buildings can be built to be more quake-resistant, under the new law. However, the problem is with brick houses and old buildings that were constructed in the 1970s. These buildings could collapse when even small earthquakes occur.
The situation is the same with outdated gas and electricity infrastructure in narrow city alleys.
Most of the buildings or equipment built in the past don’t meet earthquake standards, and if they fail, they can threaten newer equipment and buildings.
Presenting measures to restore old facilities is urgent.
The government should educate people about the dangers of earthquakes and promote making old buildings more vibration-resistant. This will be the most important task once the new law is enacted.
We have not experienced disastrous earthquakes ourselves. We have only seen on television the scenes from other countries, such as when an earthquake hit Kobe, Japan in 1995.
Although experts say that it is very unlikely that an earthquake measuring over 6.0 will occur on the Korean Peninsula, an earthquake’s effects in Korea will be different from those of large-scale quakes in other countries. This is because the degree of our urbanization and the characteristics of our buildings are different.
We should remember that medium-scale quakes occur once every several years and make practical knowledge about quakes widely known to the public. This will better prepare Korea for earthquakes.
Throughout history, we have learned that even when buildings are quake-proof, citizen-organized responses in an emergency significantly decrease the number of casualties and property damage. Our government also should keep this in mind when they are organizing earthquake education drives for the public.
The quake in Pyeongchang teaches an important lesson. It did not result in serious damage, and seismologists around the country were able to successfully forecast the quake’s effects.
As we have a shortage of data on earthquakes, it has been difficult to analyze them accurately. Even though the reports on this earthquake do not provide an ultimate solution to the problem, they will definitely advance our knowledge about earthquakes.
We need proper investment and attention to maintain the progress made by these reports. There are many things we should do at this point in order to be prepared for these highly unpredictable natural disasters.
The first among them is to evaluate the damage that medium-scale earthquakes could have on each segment in our society.
It is urgent to prepare a concrete and economically efficient plan to minimize damage from future earthquakes, and to invest money to make sure it can be put into effect.

*The writer is a principal consultant at Samsung Loss Control Center.Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Ho-jun
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