Drop Down or Flee Out? New Official Earthquake
Recommended Instructions for Schools and Kindergartens in Israel

By Dr. Carmit Rapaport & Prof. Isaac Ashkenazi

Published in International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment (2019), 10(1)

 The official earthquake protection instructions for schools and kindergartens in Israel have recently been updated from the traditional “drop, cover and hold on” approach to the “flee outside to an open space” approach. This paper describes the decision-making process, discusses the dilemmas behind it, and suggests new insights for challenging current instructions in other countries.

We analyze human behavior patterns during earthquakes in general, and at schools in particular, while taking into consideration the environment (in terms of applying building codes and the level of earthquake risk in various zones), personal characteristics (age, gender and past experience), earthquake characteristics (intensity and duration).

Five aspects should be taken into consideration when changing current earthquake instructions: (a) the general official earthquake protection instructions; (b) the structure and construction of schools and kindergartens; (c) common behavior during emergencies; (d) warning systems; and (e) the need to establish standardized protection instructions and guidelines for every school and kindergarten in the country.

The paper describes a national decision-making process which questions current official earthquake instructions at schools and kindergartens, based on evidence gained from current construction conditions, human behavior analysis and other countries’ experiences. Policymakers in other countries should critique current instructions in order to maximize citizens’ chances of survival, and mitigate possible earthquake hazards, including by improving risk communication with the public.