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SECTION III: PLANNING A summary view of the rapid visual assessment of a school building with three blocks – Unit 1, 2 and 3. Using a series of screens to compare the unit to photos of different building typologies and characteristics, the team has categorised the units, considering global building behaviour, material quality, horizontal and vertical behaviour, building mass and lateral resistance. The tool also asks teams to assess non-structural and functional issues. Following a rapid visual assessment, VISUS engineering experts review field assessments and the accompanying photographs to ensure accuracy. Designed in Italy, VISUS focuses on structural typologies common in southern Europe. Applying this technology to other contexts requires adaptation. The tool needs to be expanded to include traditional building materials like adobe. It also needs to respond to a broader range of hazards to be applicable in other contexts. Currently, the team is conducting other pilot applications in Laos and Indonesia. This requires adapting the tool to entirely new building types and hazards – including floods, tsunamis and high winds. Challenges to this approach • Retrofitting programs can improve the hazard resistance of existing unsafe school buildings. In the pilot stages, the tablet was not fully functional in the field. Rather than allowing the users to assess the safety of the facility as issues were discovered, the tablet-application forced the user into a rigid linear progression of the five sections of the VISUS method. Realising this problem, teams quickly began recording the information on paper and enter the data once they returned to university. The pictorial comparisons provided in the application were still essential, but the tablet application needed modification to be fully functional in the field. Rapid visual assessment is only the first step. The work in El Salvador identified school buildings that were likely to be the weakest, and because the VISUS tool was used, it provided initial estimates for retrofitting or replacing them. Yet even though the results of the pilot study are promising, the long-term impacts to Salvadoran schools are still unknown. The MoE and other actors still need to fund retrofitting and replacement. Engineers still need to complete detailed assessments, including sampling materials from the schools and testing their strength, before creating retrofit or replacement designs. And of course, the work then needs to be carried out. 61 Key takeaways • When resources are limited, rapid visual assessment tools help quickly identify the weakest schools and the schools with the most vulnerable students. • Local engineers may have little formal training in methods for assessing existing structures for vulnerability to hazards. • Partnering assessment experts with local universities can build the capacity of engineering students, faculty and government officials.