Investigating 'safe hubs': Spaces to which people might flee during a disaster
How might a nation protect its citizens in times of disaster such as earthquakes or war? New research in the International Journal of the Built Environment and Asset Management looks at the concept of "safe hubs." Spaces to which people might flee during an acute or ongoing incident that takes them a place sufficiently far from the danger zone.
Hesham Salim Al-Rawe and Ali Jihad Hamad of the Engineering Technical College of Mosul at the Northern Technical University in Mosul, Iraq, suggest that crowded places such as cities and city streets make people especially vulnerable. Often there is nowhere for the people to flee a lethal event nor any route by which they might make their escape.
The researchers point out that cities such as Tokyo, Los Angeles, Jakarta, and many others have high-rise buildings designed specifically to be resilient in the face of earthquakes, but there are still enormous risks of being trapped in a city even if the buildings remain standing. The team has taken the city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, as a case study to examine the concept of safe hubs and the routes that might be followed in the face of disaster to reach them.
Given that cities often have underground structures and conduits far below the surface that are essentially safe from events occurring above ground to some degree, it would seem that they might offer an escape route to a safe space beyond the city center and away from the present danger. There are other considerations that must be taken into account before a strategy based on deep underground tunnels might be implemented, such as the possibility of collapse of subterranean structures or the flooding of tunnels, for instance.
Nevertheless, when faced with a major disaster that might lead to many deaths, there are risks and benefits that must be balanced. A typical powerful earthquake might lead to tens of thousands of deaths whereas allowing many more people to escape to a safe hub with a much smaller risk of death during their escape would balance the equation in favor of that approach, it might be said.
There remains much work to be done in working out how to implement the underground realm as a potential escape route in vulnerable cities but the team suggests that, as our city population densities grow and more and more buildings reach for the skies, for future generations, finding safe hubs beyond the built environment to allow them to escape disasters, such as earthquakes could be an important part of their way of life.