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The effects of earthquake experience on intentions to respond to earthquake early warnings

Becker, J. S., Vinnell, L. J., McBride, S. K., Nakayachi, K., Doyle, E. E. H., Potter, S. H., & Bostrom, A. (2022). The effects of earthquake experience on intentions to respond to earthquake early warnings. Frontiers in Communication, 7 (857004). https://doi.org/10.3389/fcomm.2022.857004


Warning systems are essential for providing people with information so they can take protective action in response to perils. Systems need to be human-centered, which requires an understanding of the context within which humans operate. Therefore, our research sought to understand the human context for Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) in Aotearoa New Zealand, a location where no comprehensive EEW system existed in 2019 when we did this study. We undertook a survey of people's previous experiences of earthquakes, their perceptions of the usefulness of a hypothetical EEW system, and their intended responses to a potential warning (for example, Drop, Cover, Hold (DCH), staying still, performing safety actions). Results showed little difference in perceived usefulness of an EEW system between those with and without earthquake experience, except for a weak relationship between perceived usefulness and if a respondent's family or friends had previously experienced injury, damage or loss from an earthquake. Previous earthquake experience was, however, associated with various intended responses to a warning. The more direct, or personally relevant a person's experiences were, the more likely they were to intend to take a useful action on receipt of an EEW. Again, the type of experience which showed the largest difference was having had a family member or friend experience injury, damage or loss. Experience of participation in training, exercises or drills did not seem to prompt the correct intended actions for earthquake warnings; however, given the hypothetical nature of the study, it is possible people did not associate their participation in drills, for example, with a potential action that could be taken on receipt of an EEW.

Our analysis of regional differences highlighted that intentions to mentally prepare on receipt of a warning were significantly higher for Canterbury region participants, most likely related to strong shaking and subsequent impacts experienced during the 2010–11 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence. Our research reinforces that previous experience can influence earthquake-related perceptions and behaviors, but in different ways depending on the context. Public communication and interventions for EEW could take into consideration different levels and types of experiences of the audience for greater success in response.

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