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Solmaz Mohadjer


ParsQuake Project Expertise:  Geohazards Curriculum Development, Implementation and Evaluation. Teacher Professional Development. GPS Geodesy. Terrestrial Remote Sensing. Database Management System.

Solmaz Mohadjer is the founder of the ParsQuake Project, an initiative with a mission to increase earthquake awareness, education, and preparedness in the global Persian community. As a geoscientist, she uses various techniques to understand and quantify mountain hazards. As an educator, she develops and teaches geohazards education courses and professional development workshops for K-12 teachers, governmental and non-governmental organizations and humanitarian agencies around the world. Her Teacher’s Guide to Earthquake Education has been adapted, implemented, and evaluated by Teachers Without Borders in China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, India, and Haiti, and is available for free download at

Earthquake Education and Outreach in Central Asia – The role of visiting scientists

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QQuestion by Mr DUSAN ZUPKA

Dear Solmaz,
Can you please share advice/examples of how earthquake risk reduction can be integrated into the national civil protection/disaster legislation and adequately applied in the practice?
We run every year advanced disaster risk management courses in the framework of Humanitarian Action Master curriculum, therefore specific examples would be appreciated.
Best Dusan Zupka, Coordinator

Mr DUSAN ZUPKA Coordinator, Disaster Risk Management | University Geneva/International Graduate Institute

APosted on 22 Jan 2015

Hello Dusan,

I do not have any direct experience with integrating DRR into national civil protection, but I would like to highlight a few elements that I think must be considered for earthquake risk reduction:

To reduce earthquake risk, we first need to have a good understanding of why and how earthquakes happen. We cannot predict earthquakes but we can provide likely scenarios that are based on scientific research. We also need to understand how earthquakes impact our natural and man-made environments. Based on this knowledge, we can then develop and implement strategies and safety measures that can mitigate earthquake hazards. Of course, effective communication of research results and safety measures is fundamental to reducing risk. To bring all of these elements together (from science to hazards to safety), it is essential that earth scientists work hand in hand with engineers and social scientists as well as politicians, policy makers, and businesses. This is where the office for national civil protection can play a major role. It can serve as a hub for earthquake research, hazards, impacts, and safety measures. One example is the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) of the United States which directs four agencies (federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation and the United States Geological Survey), each responsible for specific program area ranging from research to development and implementation.  

Two years prior to the 2010 Haitian earthquake, a group of scientists published and spoke to the Haitian government about the potential for a large earthquake in Haiti. Their recommendations were ignored, and in 2010 Haiti was struck and devastated. This example shows that science works, but also touches on the importance of how scientific knowledge is shared and used. Earthquake risk reduction is a collaborative effort, and scientists only hold a few pieces of this puzzle.  


QQuestion by Mr Khusrav Sharifov

Hi Solmaz,

Can you please share examples of how earthquake risk reduction has been integrated into the general school education curriculum?

We support countries in the two regions (Central Asia & South Caucuses) with the integration of DRR into school curriculum, therefore specific examples would be appreciated.

Khusrav Sharifov

Mr Khusrav Sharifov Regional Emergency/DRR Coordinator (Central Asia & | UNICEF

APosted on 20 Jan 2015

Hello Khursrav,

To address your question, I’d like to share an example from China which is not very far from Central Asia. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, my colleagues and I organized and implemented earthquake emergency education workshops for teachers and school administrators in the Sichuan Province. The early workshops were designed to answer basic questions most school communities were asking in the aftermath of the earthquake (e.g., Why and how earthquakes happen? Why and how some buildings collapse? Can earthquake damage be reduced? Will there be more earthquakes? What can we do now to prepare for a similar event in the future?). It was very clear that in order for some of these school communities to come to peace with what they had just experienced and to move forward, these questions had to be addressed. In this example, something as simple as sharing information with these teachers is a form of earthquake risk reduction activity. 

To integrate earthquake risk reduction into the general school curriculum, a few more steps had to be followed. The later workshops that we taught in the Sichuan Province were designed to introduce a series of earthquake lesson plans with topics ranging from the science of earthquakes to earthquake hazards, mitigation, preparation and planning. Teachers were trained to implement the lesson plans in their classrooms and were encouraged and assisted to make the necessary modifications to make the lessons relevant to their classroom needs. This process involved reviewing the official classroom textbooks that included some information about natural hazards. In the case of China, natural hazards are included in the geography textbooks. For this reason, geography teachers became the engine behind earthquake education in the schools. After their training, these teachers trained their colleagues and teachers from other schools by organizing workshops that focused on earthquake education and how it can be incorporated into the official school curriculum. It goes without saying that for this to happen, teachers and organizers had full support of the Ministry of Education and the Institutes of Teacher Professional Development in the region. 

In Tajikistan, physical education (PE) teachers are often the engine behind implementing safety in schools. For this reason, PE teachers and school safety officers were identified and called upon by the Ministry of Education and Teacher Professional Development in Dushanbe to attend an earthquake risk reduction workshop.  Later, these teachers became the source of information about earthquake hazards, preparation, planning and drills in their school communities. 

I think one of the most important steps in integration of DRR into school curriculum is to identify where and how and by who this integration can most effectively happen. Often schools, regardless of where they are located, are not in a position to create a new course on natural hazards. Teachers are often busy with the already existing curriculum and have tight deadlines for teaching it. Therefore, it is important to identify and augment already existing resources to introduce and integrate DRR. In my opinion, earthquake risk reduction can be incorporated into a wide range of courses including geography, physical education, art, and most importantly sciences.

To view and download some of the aforementioned lesson plans and resources, please take a look at 


QQuestion by Mr Dave Paul Zervaas

Dear Solmaz, Do you think that the idea of visiting scientists as part of an outreach programme in Central Asia could be applied also in other regions? And if so, how can scientists from Central Asia promote earthquake education in those other regions? Thanks. Dave

Mr Dave Paul Zervaas Programme Officer | UNISDR

APosted on 19 Jan 2015

Hi Dave,

I think visiting scientists from Central Asia are in a rather unique position in promoting earthquake education in other countries but particularly in their neighboring countries. Central Asia is one of the most earthquake-prone regions of the world. While political borders separate the region into several countries, they are incapable of stopping active faults from crossing them. Even when a fault is bounded by the borders of one country, a slip of a certain magnitude and depth on that it can cause devastation in more than one country. This creates a problem for which a collective regional effort is required.  Currently, many Central Asian scientists conduct field research collaboratively and co-author manuscripts which are published in international scientific journals. The nature of such collaborations can be expanded to allow local and visiting scientists promote earthquake education and outreach activities. For instance, a visiting scientist from Afghanistan working in Tajikistan is in a great position to promote earthquake education in Tajikistan. Both countries have experienced several damaging earthquakes and share similar vulnerability factors that make both regions prone to natural disasters.  Both countries are in the process of understanding and addressing earthquake hazards, and realize that in case of a damaging earthquake, they might have to rely on each other for relief and recovery. One obvious but often ignored factor is that both countries also share similar culture, history, and not to mention language. In this example, the visiting scientist from Afghanistan can engage in earthquake education activities through several means: (1) holding a university lecture, (2) visiting a school community (e.g., organizing a lecture for teachers or school administrators, or implementing an interactive activity with classroom students), (3) using other community-based institutions such as mosques as platforms for sharing knowledge, and (4) speaking on local radio, television, and newspapers.  It goes without saying that all of the above activities can only be done if conducted in collaboration with local scientists and institutions. This means that local institutions should take steps in providing opportunities for visiting scientists to promote earthquake education. Such efforts are possible and have already been done. One example is the ParsQuake initiative which brings Iranian, Afghan and Tajik scientists together to not only learn more about the science of earthquakes but how to transfer that science to each other and to those who need it the most:  the people.