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Risk Communication in Southern California: Ethnic and Gender Response to 1995 Revised, Upgraded Earthquake Probabilities

Natural Hazards Center

January 1, 1997

In January 1995, the Working Group on the Probabilities of Future Large Earthquakes in southern California, issued increased probabilities for this geographic area in a comprehensive document entitled, Seismic Hazards in Southern California, 1994-2024: The Phase Report. The low-key warning information was released in conjunction with the one-year anniversary of the Northridge earthquake. After the release of this information, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) began developing a publication for the general public that presents and explains, in an easy to read and understandable format, the public's increased risk from the earthquake hazard in southern California. In October, on the anniversary of the Whittier Narrows earthquake, this publication was distributed to the general public and announced over various media channels. Unlike the distribution of a similar information publication in San Francisco, which was by newspaper insert, this information handbook was and is still being distributed through the library system in southern California. The distribution covered ten counties and included over 400 libraries. The purpose of this study was to visit one ethnically diverse community in southern California, gather some preliminary data on the background and initial impact of the revised earthquake probabilities for southern California, and observe the role that the new information handbook played in educating the public of its risk to the earthquake hazard. This report also assessed the response of ethnic and minority groups to the revised warning message, and captured the gender response as well.