Location: Online

Start Date: 09 March 2020 End Date: 09 March 2020

Speakers: Jair Torres, Stefano Grimaz, Petra Malisan

Organiser: GADRRRES

Attendance: 30 participants

Webinar presentation

Webinar recording available on the GADRRRES YouTube channel:

Learning and Insights

  • VISUS is a part of the Comprehensive School Safety Assessment Suite
    • The VISUS methodology focuses on Pillar 1 of the CSS framework
    • The purpose of the VISUS methodology is to allow for an assessment of the safety of several school facilities in a context of limited resources. A thorough assessment of school safety will take a lot of time and requires significant resources investments. VISUS is a standardised methodology that can be applied in an efficient way and can be used to assess many schools in a short period of time.
  • The VISUS assessment focuses on the site of the school, the buildings of the school, any ancillary buildings as well as the school grounds – the area surrounding the schools where children will spend much of their time when at school.
  • Decision-makers need to know which schools to prioritise in an intervention, they need to know how much an intervention will cost and what sort of intervention to make.
  • You cannot use existing building codes to retroactively assess existing buildings
  • You need to reduce the cost of the assessment so that the majority of the budget can be used to improve the school. The aim of VISUS is to offer a standardised assessment mechanism that can be done quickly and cheaply but still produce a thorough assessment.
    • This assessment can also be done by people without specialist skills – this is similar to the triage process in emergency medicine
    • The information gathered in the assessment is used to create an action plan.
  • The assessment takes into account everything that could cause problems for the children attending a school, distinguishing the potential criticalities under the following five broad safety issues:
    •  Location/site
    • Structural global
    • Structural local
    • Non-structural
    • Functionality
  • A graphic language is used to describe the observable features that surveyors must identify. This was shown to improve the usability of the VISUS forms.
  • Information for decision-making:
    • Safety situation
    • Safety upgrading needs
    • Status
    • All the data collected within each of these categories allow the decision-maker to develop a number of different strategies depending on the desired outcome
    • VISUS can be used to define an action plan as well as an evaluation tool to assess the effectiveness of the intervention

Resources and further reading:

UNESCO Guidelines for Assessing Learning Facilities in the Context of Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation:

Answers to participant questions

Who is qualified to conduct the VISUS surveys?

Trained surveyors, usually civil engineers, architects or construction trainees from technical education colleges (e.g., students).

Need to be careful not to go down route of targeting the most children, as this will prioritise only the larger, usually better built schools and leave isolated the remote smaller very vulnerable schools. Governments might target larger numbers of children’s schools to create a better impression.

The role of the VISUS methodology is not to influence the political processes but to offer decision-makers all the information that they might need to make decisions.

I fully agree on the relevance of the adaptation to local characteristics. But not just the geographical, climate ones. We should also include the cultural ones, especially the architectural (vernacular values, bioclimatic, etc.)

Cultural responsiveness is built into the approach. The methodology tries to understand the common typologies that appear in different areas. Some typologies have a lot of cultural significance for some communities. This can affect the kinds of intervention strategies that decision-makers can take.

How and when we can start to test to use VISUS with automated evaluation?

  •  Please be in contact with us. The automated version of the VISUS application can be used to build capacity. Users can practice producing reports without them being recorded.
  • The platform is at the last step of development. The platform is still a work in progress. There will be a test-phase during which we will gather feedback from users who are interested in using the platform.

Is it possible to contextualise the online survey/assessment tool (ref. video shown by Petra Malisan)?

Yes. It is important to contextualise the tool as well as the training models that are used to train the surveyors. The tool needs to consider the typologies that appear in a particular context as well as the hazards that are likely to affect the schools in that context. The first step in the methodology is to adapt it to the local context.

Does this diagnostic tool take into account the level of preparedness in place? I am thinking for example of a school emergency plan?

      • The school emergency plan is a tool that falls under Pillar 2 of the CSS framework. Nevertheless, the focus of the VISUS methodology is to try to understand how the status of the learning facility can affect the safety of children – Pillar 1. You will need different specialists for different elements of disaster preparedness in schools – such as school emergency plans.
      • The outcomes of VISUS enable to define the potential scenarios of criticalities that could be faced in emergencies, which is the starting point for the emergency planning design.

Of special relevance is the involvement of the communities (parents and relatives, together with local administration or delegates of regional and national ones)

It is necessary to highlight the importance of the community in the assessment. If the community is involved from the beginning then when it comes to implementing an intervention it is easier to incorporate the community in the process. Apart from the assessment, the community also has an important role to play in the implementation phase, as communities are often the best inspectors since they understand local conditions and local building techniques.

Where do you keep the data of the surveys, since it is about schools’ detailed safety data? Has data security been a concern of any countries you’ve worked in?

All the information belongs to the Ministry of Education (MoE) of the countries. The automatic control tool will be installed at the MoE itself. The quality control is automatically produced. There needs to be a national VISUS focal point and VISUS task team that can check the quality of the data that is being produced.

Access more information about the VISUS methodology here.