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TitleFacing the communication challenges during an earthquake swarm period
AuthorLamontagne, M; Flynn, B; Goulet, C
SourceSeismological Research Letters vol. 87, no. 6, 2016 p. 1373-1377,
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20160119
PublisherSeismological Society of America
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
SubjectsHealth and Safety; earthquakes; earthquake risk; seismology; health hazards; resilience; preparation; communication
ProgramEastern Canada Geohazards Assessment Project, Public Safety Geoscience
AbstractWhen earthquake swarms catch the public¿s attention, we, seismologists, face a difficult communications challenge. On the one hand, we don¿t want to create unnecessary anxiety, since most swarms eventually die off, but at the same time, we know that these events could be foreshocks of a larger, and possibly damaging, earthquake. What then is the seismologist to say that will remain within the scope of science while assisting the public and community leaders to make appropriate choices related to unknown and potentially damaging future events? Probabilistic statements are scientifically verifiable but will provide little comfort to anxious people and will give no guidance about whether they should prepare or not to face an earthquake. We believe that the path out of these dilemmas lies in the promotion of actions that allow individuals, families, and communities to acquire a sense of control and that promote individual and collective efficacy, a key element of promoting resilience in a crisis. This way, seismologists can make use of a ¿teachable moment¿, when people are inclined to pay attention to the scientists¿ message, and to take action based upon useful and credible information. This course of action has the added benefit of enhancing an appropriate response if an event does occur. We believe that the public is ready to accept the limitations of the Earth Sciences (such as the inability to make predictions, especially if these limitations are paired with guidance that is reasonable, comforting, and makes logical sense. In addition, the public will respond better if science is delivered with a humane attitude. Based on these premises, we propose a message that should form the basis of press releases, web page content, Tweets, that we hope would be useful for seismologists who communicate during earthquake swarm periods.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
What seismologists should say during an earthquake swarm period