Effective Earthquake Communication

Presented by Xyoli Pérez-Campos, Instituto de Geofísica, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Introduced and moderated by Sergio Barrientos, University of Chile
Discussant: Marino Protti, University of Costa Rica

A growing concern across countries is how scientific knowledge is disregarded by those making official policy as well as the general public. Therefore, effective science communication is needed to reach all levels.

In many of our countries, we lack a liaison office between scientists and legislators. Our results

stay on shelves and scientific meetings but are not being translated into policy that could prevent disasters from occurring. In contrast, there are good examples in countries where science advisors are close and changes are happening; learning from their experience, successes and errors might lead to a change. In Mexico, a new initiative has emerged to install a liaison office inside the Congress with trained scientists that can identify and translate the science needed for policy making.

Also, in some countries, the number of stakeholders when an earthquake occurs is way more than two, and the structure for decision making is quite complicated. Coordination between them is key to a fast and optimal response. With this complex system, knowledge, precision and effective communication are critical for quick and informed decision-making. However, many helpful products end up in web portals with no use from decision-makers since we have overseen communication and training. One problem is the high rotation in office personnel, so training should be continuously done and in good coordination with the various governmental agencies responsible for quick decision-making.

Another critical element is the public. There are many outreach efforts by various agencies through blogs and social networks. However, sometimes, especially when a big earthquake happens, it requires extra efforts to fight against popular pseudo-scientists or fake news. Identifying the usual questions and public concerns can help in designing target publications and communications. Also, right after a big earthquake, media handling through press conferences and one-on-one interviews can diffuse part of the confusion and concern first generated by the event. It also helps having a strong trustable figure as the spoke-person, whom the public and media will look to and listen to.

Recorded at the SSA 2021 Annual Meeting