Beichuan's environment turned vulnerable after the earthquake, and secondary disasters visited the county frequently. In September 2008, huge landslides triggered by heavy rains caught Beichuan by surprise, destroying temporary shelters in the old county town.
The landslides rang a warning bell. Government officials checked all the places where geological disasters were likely to happen and took precautionary measures such as digging ditches and reinforcing riverbanks. They trained a monitor for each major relocation site. If a disaster occurs, the monitor is to report to the government and command the evacuation of residents.
From April to October every year, county officials go to the major sites in jeopardy of secondary disasters to examine how the hazard prevention measures are working.
In 2009, Wen visited Yuanmenba village in Yong'an town, which sits on the middle to lower reaches of several rivers. It was made clear to the villagers that they would hear a gong if heavy rains put the village in danger of mudslides and that they should evacuate immediately. A specific route was designed by the county's land resources department.
Severe floods hit Sichuan and destroyed the road from Dujiangyan city to Wenchuan county last year, but under the new system, Beichuan survived with zero deaths.
Drills, not just plans
As public awareness of disaster prevention has increased, schools, hospitals and government institutions have become more diligent in educating people about disaster response and in conducting drills to reinforce the message.
"There's no doubt of the importance of emergency plans, but when a disaster comes all of a sudden, the plans are either saved in the computers or locked in office drawers," said Wang Dong, director of Mianyang Central Hospital. "It is the drills - not the plans on paper - that we can rely on."
Every semester, the central primary school of Malu town in Qingchuan county holds different drills on how to escape an earthquake, flood or mudslide. In the drill for earthquakes, on hearing a siren, the students leave the classroom in order through the nearest door, get down to the sports ground as quickly as possible via designated stairways, assemble in units of classes and curl up. It usually takes less than 10 minutes for more than 900 students and teachers to leave, said the school principal, Huang Yong.