Essential Five: Protect Vital Facilities: Education and Health

"Assess the safety of all schools and health facilities and upgrade these as necessary"


Schools and health facilities provide essential social services. As such, special attention must be paid to their safety and risk reduction efforts must focus on ensuring they can continue providing services when most needed. Not only do they house among the most vulnerable groups in society, schools and hospitals are also places of care, development and well-being. They carry out essential functions during and after a disaster, where they are likely to accommodate and treat survivors. The normal educational routines of children must be restored as soon as possible to avoid social and psychological repercussions.


Keep schools and health facilities operating and functional

  • Establish and implement action plans and programs, maintain the structural and physical resilience and robustness of these facilities.
  • Examine the geographical location and investigate capacity requirements in emergency and recovery situations.

Assess disaster risk in schools and hospitals and strengthen/retrofit the most vulnerable

  • Introduce data on the vulnerability of schools and health facilities into risk assessments and ensure compliance with safety standards when deciding on the location, design and construction of all new infrastructure.
  • Create an action plan to assess and reduce vulnerability and risk in existing schools and health facilities by selecting and retrofitting the most critical (and vulnerable) facilities and incorporating stringent maintenance and repair programmes.
  • Generate wider action and more resources by encouraging surveyors, engineers and other built environment professionals, private sector and the communities to participate in such critical risk reduction work.

Recognize the relevance of priority services and operations after a disaster

  • Improve the safety of public health and educational facilities that have complementary and supporting roles in emergency response and recovery.
  • Strengthen and motivate private facilities that can contribute to relief efforts and provide complementary functions in the emergency and recovery phase.
  • Provide incentives to eligible private institutions to become partners.

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  • Cayman Islands

  • Making Health Care Facilities Safer
    The Cayman Islands are one of the most frequent targets of Atlantic hurricanes, and in 2004, Hurricane Ivan, the worst storm in 86 years, struck the largest island, Grand Cayman, damaging 90% of the buildings. Power, water and communications were disrupted for months in some areas. The island began a major rebuilding process, and within the National Strategic Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Health Services Authority addressed structural, non-structural, functional and workforce issues. For instance, the 124-bed Cayman Islands Hospital (the territory’s principal healthcare facility) which had been built to Category 5 hurricane standards, remained functional during and after Hurricane Ivan, while providing an impromptu shelter to more than 1,000 people. However, older facilities needed to be upgraded to new local and international building codes and protocols for healthcare facilities. Seismic risk reduction elements were also introduced into the design of new facilities.
    For more information:

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  • Hospital Safety Index

  • Will My Hospital Be Able to Function in a Disaster?
    A growing number of countries worldwide are using the Hospital Safety Index, a low-cost tool that helps health facilities assess their safety and avoid becoming a casualty of disasters. The Hospital Safety Index provides a snapshot of the likelihood that a hospital or health facility can continue to function in emergency situations, based on structural, nonstructural and functional factors, including the environment and the health services network to which it belongs. By determining a hospital’s safety index or score, countries and decision makers will have an overall idea of its ability to respond to major emergencies and disasters. The Hospital Safety Index does not replace costly and detailed vulnerability studies. However, because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to apply, it is an important first step towards prioritizing investments in hospital safety. The Hospital Safety Index is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and French.
    Download the background information and forms at

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  • While it is true that the collapse of a school or hospital generates severe problems for a disaster-affected city, it is more common to see the ‘functional’ collapse of these facilities, where structures may remain standing but cannot be used for a variety of preventable reasons. To avoid this, hospitals and schools must be constructed to high standards of resilience, access routes must remain open and the water supply, electric power and telecommunications must continue providing services to the facilities to guarantee continuity of operations.

  • The ‘One Million Safe Schools and Hospitals Campaign’ is a global advocacy initiative to make schools and hospitals safer from disasters. This initiative is part of the 2010-2011 World Disaster Risk Reduction Campaign on "Building Resilient Cities - My city is getting ready!" Make a pledge and save a life!