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KS3 Geography - Tectonic Hazards: Managing Tectonic Hazards

A guide to tectonic hazards for your Year 9 course, compiled by your Librarians.

Managing tectonics hazards - how?

   It's not possible to prevent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. However, careful management of these hazards can minimise the damage that they cause. Prediction is the most important aspect of this, as this gives people time to evacuate the area and make preparations for the event.

Measuring the damage of hazards

   The damages caused by tectonic hazards are mainly measured in the following areas:

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  • People:

    the death tolls and the number of injured and displaced people caused by the hazards.

  • Economy:

    the economy costs for loss of human lives and assets, recovery and restoration from the hazards. Reconstruction can take many years .

  • Environment:

    the loss of vegetation and habitats from natural environment, pollution to water & air, etc.. Sometimes volcano ash can wipe out all of the environmental features.

Facts that affect the impact of the hazards

Well trained rescue teams can reduce the impact of earthquakes

Well trained rescue teams can reduce the impact of earthquakes

Facts that affect the impact of the hazards
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Frequency of hazards


Time of the day

Emergency response

Level of economic development

Cost of earthquakes vs. death tolls in LEDCs & MEDCs

   Cost of earthquakes


   The  above figure shows the reconstruction cost of recent earthquakes compared to the number of people killed in these earthquakes. The dashed line has a slope of 100 deaths per billion dollars and acts as a divide between countries with low per capita income from those that are wealthy.

Disaster of engineering

"It was the buildings, not the earthquake, that killed 220,000 people, that injured 330,000, that displaced 1.3 million people, that cut off food and water and supplies for an entire nation.”

The world's 7 biggest earthquake-proof buildings

   Thanks to new technologies and testing methods, some of today's largest buildings can stay safe in a quake without compromising their size or aesthetic design. In fact, to attain their great height, many of the world's largest buildings utilize architectural elements that also protect them in case of disaster.

   Innovatively constructed and safely designed, here are the seven largest earthquake-proof buildings in the world. Mouse click and go to the individual pages to see special earthquake resistant features for each building. 

Test your knowledge about managing tectonic hazards!

1What do you call professionals who monitor and predict volcanic eruptions?

2Which of the following is NOT an indication that a volcanic eruption is likely?

3When considering methods for predicting and monitoring the possibility of earthquakes, which of the following statements is NOT true?

4People can be prepared for earthquakes by:

5Buildings can be constructed to absorb the energy of an earthquake:

Why can damage can be so severe?

   Six weeks after the Haiti shock, Chile was struck by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake. It was 500 times more powerful than the Haiti quake, yet killed less than 1% of the Haitian total. Why was the Haiti earthquake so destructive? Some of the reasons are listed here:

Building Codes

Very few of Haiti’s buildings were constructed for earthquake resistance. An absence of building codes combined with a deficit of licensed contractors, engineers and architects contributed to a structural environment ripe for disaster.

Construction Materials

The walls of 90% of Haitian buildings are constructed with either cement, earth, clisse (“sticks, twigs and branches”), bricks or stone. Contractors and builders often cut corners in construction, reducing costs by using easily available building materials such as limestone dust and unrefined sand, which produce a cheaper but weaker concrete. 

Fault Lines

Haiti is located next to a geological fault zone that scientists have long termed “a major seismic hazard” to the population. 

Population Density & Urbanization

Before the earthquake, half of Haiti’s population of 10 million lived in densely populated urban areas, including one in four Haitians residing in Port-au-Prince. This population density around the earthquake’s epicenter meant that an incredible half of the country’s residents were directly impacted by the quake. 

Prediction and preparation for tectonic hazards


Type of hazards Prediction Preparation
  • Laser beams can be used to detect plate movement.
  • A seismometer is used to pick up the vibrations in the Earth's crust. An increase in vibrations may indicate a possible earthquake.
  • Radon gas escapes from cracks in the Earth's crust. Levels of radon gas can be monitored - a sudden increase may suggest an earthquake.
  • People living in earthquake zones need to know what they should do in the event of a quake. Training people may involve holding earthquake drills and educating people via TV or radio.
  • People may put together emergency kits and store them in their homes. An emergency kit may include first-aid items, blankets and tinned food.
  • Buildings need to be constructed as earthquake-proof to absorb the energy of an earthquake and to withstand the movement of the Earth.
  • Roads and bridges can also be designed to withstand the power of earthquakes.
Volcanoes Mornitoring warning signs including small earthquakes, temperatures and gas released around volcanoes.
  • Creating an exclusion zone around the volcano
  • Being ready and able to evacuate residents
  • Having an emergency supply of basic provisions, such as food
  • Funds need to be available to deal with the emergency and a good communication system needs to be in place
Tsunamis Monitoring activities that may trigger tsunamis such as under sea earthquakes, landslides, etc.. Set up Tsunami Warning Centers such as the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) to warn people before tsunami strikes. 

Managing tectonic hazards in LEDCs and MEDCs

Map of LEDCs and MEDCs


   Tectonic hazards will have differenct affect on More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs) and Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs).  Hazards in LEDCs are usually more deadly and effective than in MEDCs. The differences can be categorized as: 

Health Care Often have to rely on aid from overseas as their health system, which is inadequate. This overseas aid takes time to arrive, which could mean far more casualties. Have the medical resources and money to quickly get appropriate aid to areas after a natural disaster. 
Emergency Services Often do not have these emergency plans, and so far (as seen in TURKEY) more damage can be done before the emergency services reach the stricken area. In contries like Japan and New Zealand,  there are well thought out emergency procedures. Practices in schools and places of work mean that people know what to do it the event of a natural disaster. The Government's and military have special emergency plans to help with the situation.
Building Technology Don't tend to have the technology available or money to pay for it, and their buildings are very vulnerable to earthquakes. Countries such as Japan and the United States have been at the fore front of developing buildings that have more chance of resisting an earthquake.
Scientific Prediction Less investment for this type of research and development. Have more investment for monitoring and research.
Recovery Usually have to rely on aid from overseas, quick recovery is often impossible for them. Tend to be able to recover quickly from the hazards, due to having the insurance, investment and technology needed.

A presentation on disaster management

Constructing earthquake-proof buildings

      Construction techniques can have a huge impact on the death tolls from earthquakes. The difference betwen Chile and Haiti earthquake death tolls comes from building construction and technology. In Haiti, the buildings were constructed quickly and cheaply. Chile, a richer and more industrialized nation, adheres to more stringent building codes. Here is a video that shows how a large shake platform can be used to test a full-scale structure in response to the motion of an earthquake.


How building design can help buildings survive in an earthquake?

Interactive zone: prepare for earthquakes and volcanoes

Is your house prepared for a major earthquake ? Play the game and check it out!

As the newly appointed chief of the Emergency Management Agency for Bluebear County, it's your job to handle an eruption of the fictional Mount Spur. Are you up to it? Click to play the game in a new window!

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