disaster simulation oxford

Disaster Simulation in Oxford: Shelter after Disaster

On Saturday 9th March 2013, an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale hit Oxford– affecting only 4 girls from Oxford Brookes.

The task was to simulate a disaster – more or less – and put ourselves in a position where we needed to build a shelter, with little or no planning, in order to survive the night. The experience was conducted as part of the Shelter after Disaster group work assignment.

Throughout the day we had to deal with different challenges: one of us had a arm injury which meant an imposed handicap for half the day, whilst another had to sit out in order to ‘seek immediate medical attention’. We made sure we moved around in pairs to increase our own security.

We had limited tools – a hammer, some nails, a saw, some rope and tarpaulin. Our first prerogative was to find a site suitable for the shelter - away from large buildings as their structural integrity could not be certain. A site near the Oxford Brookes Student’s union building was close to useful materials and was situated on relatively high ground, so as to reduce the risk of any unexpected flooding.

We located scrap wood and pallets from a near-by construction site. This was the basis for our simple and fairly modular design, which reduced the need for complicated construction skills. Within 7 hours, we had a structure – clad in a mix of wood and rigid plastic sheeting with a lightweight tarpaulin acting as a roof. Two of us were able to spend the night there, and even had a few friends stop by to deliver ‘food aid’, and a much appreciated duvet.

This experience, whilst simple and not attempting to be comparable to the experiences of genuine post-disaster survivors was still eye-opening. We found ourselves to be proud of our new ‘home’ as well as being surprised by our own ability to create something in so little time, with such limited resources. We feel it was a valuable experience in beginning to sympathise with communities and gave us great insight into the physical limitations that may be encountered when attempting to re-build or upgrade accommodation.

Nadia Berger, Sophia Boyd, Ashleigh King, Sifat Lora