Earthquake Safe Communities in Nepal

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School Earthquake Safety Program (SESP)

Disaster Preparedness/Multi-hazards/Preparedness

Throughout Nepal


Despite the high risk of earthquakes, school construction in Nepal has largely ignored issues of structural safety and they are built very informally just like common residential buildings. Over 66 percent of the valley’s public schools are likely to collapse if they were to experience intensity IX shaking. Estimated casualty figures for a scenario earthquake of MMI IX shaking during school hours in Kathmandu Valley are: 29,000 deaths (students, teachers and administrative staff-12%), 43,000 seriously injured (18%), total collapse of school buildings (66%), partial collapse (11%), and 23% of the buildings will suffer from minor to moderate damage.

The findings led NSET to advocate for School Earthquake Safety Program (SESP) in Nepal, which has been very successful in terms of developing appropriate technical methodologies and a procedure for community-based implementation. The effort has demonstrated technical, economical, political and socio-cultural feasibilities of enhancing earthquake performance of about 300 public schools in Nepal located within the Kathmandu Valley and in districts located at various physiographic regions of Nepal from the high Himalayan settlements to the plains of Terai in the south. However, there are more than 32,000 public and private schools in Nepal, and the challenge is to scale up the process of enhancing earthquake safety of schools for which institutionalization of the concept of SESP is necessary.

NSET pioneered the School Earthquake Safety Program (SESP) in 1997 when it was included as a direct component of Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Risk Management Program (KVERMP) with the initiative of making schools safer against earthquakes that not only protects school children, but educates communities to protect themselves

Schools are source of education (awareness) and also a tool to make people aware about safety from hazards. Students, teachers, parents and the members of the management committee are the active agents who help widen the outreach of the earthquake safety measures. The earthquake resistant school building stands there as stimulator to change the current construction practice. School students are good conveyers of information from school to individual households. In this sense, school could be considered as ignition point to change traditional practices to seismically safer construction practice of society. Apart from its educational usage, schools are also used as community meeting places and emergency shelters during disasters. The importance of making school buildings earthquake resistant is obvious. In the early years SESP was limited to seismic retrofit design and involvement of the concerned communities in the implementation of the school building seismic reconstruction or seismic strengthening. Later, SESP gradually developed into a social movement as the centre of earthquake risk management.

In the School Earthquake Safety Program, NSET encourages the local community to establish a School Earthquake Safety Committee (SESC), with several sub-committees, at each SESP site. Because of the involvement of a very wide section of communities and institutions, SESP has proven to be a strong awareness raising activity.

The School Earthquake Safety Program consists of three closely inter-knit sub-components, namely, (1) Training of masons, (2) Training of teachers, parents and students on earthquake preparedness and preparedness planning, and (3) seismic retrofit or earthquake-resistant reconstruction of public school buildings. NSET carries out survey, design and assists the construction committee to implement the construction. Usually, the local masons are engaged in the construction; contractors are avoided.

NSET also provides construction supervision. During construction, the masons and technicians are provided with the Hands-on training on earthquake resistant construction. Further the school teachers, students and the surrounding community are oriented on earthquake safety.  Emergency Response Plan of the school is developed including training of teachers, parents, children and the community for the drill to be performed based on the plan.

Thus the program has been very successful in promoting community participation in all components of program activities and to raise earthquake awareness significantly.



The main goal of the project is to gradually ensure that school children in seismic regions go to earthquake-safe schools and that local communities build their capacities to cope with earthquake disasters. To achieve the goal, the SESP program has the following principal objectives:

• To assess the structural and non structural vulnerability of public school buildings

• To identify and implement measures to reduce the identified vulnerabilities

• To raise awareness of earthquake risks and preparedness

• Help schools develop and implement School Earthquake Preparedness Plan


Students, teachers and the surrounding community of the selected schools


• Schools are the best point of entry for propagating disaster risk reduction at community level

• School Earthquake Safety Program is a complete program

• SESP is a platform to produce/develop appropriate technology

• Management model in SESP can be used in any community development work as a model for community- based initiatives

• Transparency plays vital role in community -based programs

• Best indicator of success of technology transfer is replication of the process.

• Training program for mason is an essential part for a successful School Earthquake Safety Program

• Retrofitting is an affordable solution for Nepalese Schools


School Earthquake Safety Program is a complete program to make schools safer and also reach communities with the message of earthquake safety promotion. SESP approaches are well established and approved. Despite concept being widely accepted and even replicated at various levels, there is a huge potential to scale up the effort with extensive replication so as to cover thousands of schools in Nepal and the region.

Additionally, the masons trained during the program are now spreading the technology of earthquake-resistant construction in their communities and replicating the technology while constructing new buildings. They are also training other masons. Thus the process of replication (replicating the construction methods employed in school building to construct their private houses) would multiply in future to set a new technological culture in construction.


Hand-Book for Seismic Resistant Construction and Retrofitting of School Buildings in Nepal
Training Manual for School Based Earthquake Preparedness Program


National Society for Earthquake Technology- Nepal (NSET) in partnership with many Agencies/ Organizations.

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