Saving more than 100,000 lives through a simple, innovative solution: Tsunami Evacuation Raised Earth Park

30 September 2010, Indonesia

The idea is simple and elegant: In the event of a tsunami, escape to higher ground. This is the concept behind a "Tsunami Evacuation Raised Earth Park” or TEREP by GeoHazards International (GHI). Swiss Re is funding the design of this innovative, easily replicable and cost-efficient solution to save multiple lives in Padang, Indonesia, as one of the world's most high-risk areas for tsunamis.

Padang faces a unique and urgent challenge: It is a fast-growing, tsunami-prone city built at sea level and far from high ground. Working in collaboration with GHI, Swiss Re is funding the design of a prototype for vertical evacuation i.e. the TEREP. This is an artificial “hill”, which will be built within the city of Padang and its height will be greater than the expected tsunami. People will evacuate to the top of the hill instead of running into fragile buildings in the moments after an earthquake has struck.

The M7.6 earthquake that struck Padang exactly one year ago, on 30 September 2009, confirmed the critical need for tsunami evacuation infrastructure as many buildings previously identified as satisfactory evacuation structures collapsed.

If a tsunami were to occur today, as many as 100,000 people might perish. And there is a high likelihood that a tsunami will occur within the lifetime of the current residents of Padang.

The TEREP will be a first in Indonesia, while similar structures already exist in Japan. Aside from being able to accommodate more evacuees than most buildings, the TEREP can also serve as a community park in the meantime.

"This project aligns with Swiss Re's approach in many aspects: Risk management is our business, and we believe in simple, innovative solutions that are cost effective and easily replicable, thereby having the potential to save untold lives," said Sharon Ooi, Swiss Re's Director of Client Markets for Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The TEREP project will also allow local engineers and contractors to build their capacity to design and construct other TEREPs, thereby increasing the likelihood and efficiency of replicating this project elsewhere.

"GHI expects the impact of this project to extend beyond the chosen TEREP site within Padang, and beyond the project’s duration. Because Padang is the capital and largest city in Western Sumatra, the project would also have broad visibility and impact throughout the region," said Veronica Cedillos, GHI’s manager of the TEREP project. Construction of the TEREP is planned for 2011.

"The TEREP will not only save people's lives, but also help them live more at peace knowing they have somewhere to evacuate to during a tsunami," said Mr Dedi Herdinal, Head of BPBD, the Disaster Management Agency of Padang City.

Swiss Re and GHI have been longtime partners in delivering effective solutions for risk education and mitigation. For instance in India, they have jointly launched a multi-year campaign to improve hospital earthquake safety, including the development of an easy-to-use manual to help all major hospitals in 23 earthquake-prone states take steps to keep functioning and saving lives after an earthquake.

Swiss Re also initiated other corporate responsibility projects in Indonesia in 2009, such as rebuilding a school in Padang after the earthquake last year and building homes for the needy in Batam.

Notes to editors

Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd

Swiss Re is a leading and highly diversified global reinsurer. The company operates through offices in more than 20 countries. Founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1863, Swiss Re offers financial services products that enable risk-taking essential to enterprise and progress. The company’s traditional reinsurance products and related services for property and casualty, as well as the life and health business are complemented by insurance-based corporate finance solutions and supplementary services for comprehensive risk management. Swiss Re is rated “A+” by Standard & Poor’s, “A1”by Moody’s and “A” by A.M. Best.

Swiss Re has been associated with Asia since 1913 and now has around 1,000 staff in Asia Pacific. The company's Asian headquarters are in Hong Kong.

GeoHazards International

GHI is a California-based, non-profit international organization, founded in 1993, that seeks to reduce death and suffering due to geological disasters in the world's most vulnerable, underserved communities. GHI makes a community safer by raising awareness of its risk, building local institutions to manage that risk, and launching replicable risk reduction actions.