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Safety messages in the wake of the earthquake

Explosive weapons Prevention

HI teaches people in Syria how to protect themselves during an earthquake and its aftershocks as well as from the large quantities of explosive ordnance littering the region.

Group of four women, all wearing head coverings, sitting on the street / sidewalk. In the middle, a woman holds up an image as part of a risk education session

Risk Education Agent is delivering a risk education session to a group of females | © K.W Dalati / HI

Meeting as many people as possible

24 HI risk education agents are organized into mobile units. They travel between the places most affected by the earthquake to deliver safety messages to the survivors. They either go door-to-door or hold public sessions. They conduct individual awareness-raising sessions and group sessions in the shelter camps.

Conveying key messages

How to act when the ground is shaking? What to do before and after an earthquake or aftershock ? You can prepare yourself ahead of earthquakes. “Instead of standard or hanging lamps, install overhead lighting fixed to the ceiling." During the earthquake, “Protect your face, your head and your neck with your arms or any way possible and keep as still as you can.” And “Do not run. The ground may shift violently. Wait for the tremors to stop before leaving the building or car by the safest route.”

After an earthquake, “Do not light cigarettes, matches or candles. Any open flame is dangerous! Once you are outside your building, communicate by text message. Only telephone in an extreme emergency. Listen to the radio and follow the instructions given by the local authorities.”

“People appreciate these messages as they are still terrorised by the multiple aftershocks and earthquakes that have occurred over the past few days. They ask our teams a lot of questions,” says Sultan Al Shoubaki, an Explosive Ordnance Risk Education specialist. 

Contamination in northwest Syria

HI risk education teams also deliver key safety messages on explosive ordnance contamination.

Northwest Syria is heavily contaminated by remnants of bombs, rockets and ammunitions from past and recent fighting that pose a deadly risk to the population. Moreover, households and buildings may have stored weapons and ammunition that are now buried under the rubble.

Many families have been displaced and are living out in the open. They may have to move to unknown areas contaminated by explosive ordnance.

HI’s teams tell people how to recognize the explosive weapons that they might find in the rubble or on the street: their shape; what types they are; how dangerous they are; what kind of injuries they can cause, and so on. People are also taught how to recognize danger signs.

Searching through the rubble

HI teams see many people expose themselves to danger by returning to the rubble of their house or apartment to gather belongings such as blankets and clothes, or by starting to remove the rubble to try and rebuild their homes.

Before the earthquake, children and teenagers used to collect and sell scrap metal to earn money to support their families. This activity is skyrocketing these days.

The civil defense, tasked with taking down damaged buildings, sometimes uses explosives to do so. This can trigger other explosives buried in the rubble and cause a lot damage to the surrounding buildings. Clearing the rubble has become a very dangerous activity.

“We try to reach as many people as people as possible in sessions that last about 20 minutes. Be aware of the risk. If you see a suspicious-looking object, do not approach, touch or move it. Distance yourself and call us or call the authorities. Our campaign save lives,” Sultan expains. 


Date published: 03/06/23


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