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Social Science Research

This page highlights some of the most significant social science research papers related to the ShakeAlert System and earthquake early warning in general.

The Generational Gap: Children, Adults, and Protective Actions in Response to Earthquakes

Rachel Adams, Jennifer Tobin, Lori Peek, Jolie Breeden, Sara McBride, and Robert de Groot

Earthquake drills in the United States currently recommend the protective action “drop, cover, and hold on” in the event of shaking yet little is known about whether this guidance is followed in schools and homes by children and adults. To fill this gap, this research examined protective actions taken by children and adults during the 2018 Anchorage, Alaska earthquake and the 2019 Ridgecrest, California earthquake sequence. Findings suggest that a generational gap exists that could compromise the safety of young people as well as the adults who care for them. 

Considerations for Creating Equitable and Inclusive Communication Campaigns Associated with ShakeAlert, the Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast of the USA

Mariah R Jenkins, Sara K McBride, Meredith Morgoch, and Hollie Smith

Earthquakes have the potential to drastically impact physical, social and economic landscapes; to reduce this risk, earthquake early warning (EEW) systems have been developed. However, these technical EEW systems do not operate in a vacuum; the inequities in social systems, along with the needs of diverse populations, must be considered when developing these systems and their associated communication campaigns. Our findings suggest that specific to EEW campaigns, developers may find self-reflective questions a useful approach to increase inclusion.

Development of a Companion Questionnaire for ‘Did You Feel It?’: Assessing Response in Earthquakes Where an Earthquake Early Warning May Have Been Received

James D Goltz, David J Wald, Sara K McBride, Robert de Groot, Jolie K Breeden, and Ann Bostrom.

Assessing how earthquake early warning is perceived and utilized by alert recipients is considered essential. A related strategy and the goal of the present research is to develop a brief questionnaire, consistent with those already developed, as a supplement to the United States Geological Survey’s “Did You Feel It?” questionnaire that has provided earthquake intensities and information on behavioral response in earthquakes, both domestic and international, since 2004.

Typology Development of Earthquake Displays in Free-Choice Learning Environments, to Inform Earthquake Early Warning Education in the United States

Danielle F. Sumy, Mariah R. Jenkins, Sara K. McBride, and Robert-Michael de Groot.

Free-choice learning environments, such as museums, national parks, interpretive trails, and visitor centers, are trusted sources of information in their communities and support lifelong learning. Earthquake education in these spaces creates awareness of earthquake hazards and risk in areas where people live or visit and, in turn, may increase engagement in preparedness behavior. We analyzed a sample of existing earthquake exhibits and their themes in the United States and explored how different display types are uniquely engaging, finding that most displays did not include information about how to prepare for an earthquake or associated protective actions. 

Earthquake Early Warning Message Testing: Visual Attention, Behavioral Responses, and Message Perceptions

Jeannette Sutton, Laura Fischer, Lori E James, and Sarah E Sheff

Earthquake early warning (EEW) systems have the potential to facilitate the delivery of lifesaving information to individuals in the path of damaging shaking before it reaches them. While much attention has been devoted to measuring the technological feasibility in terms of reach, accuracy, and latency of EEW message delivery, one additional aspect that merits considerable attention is the effectiveness of alerts themselves; do they deliver actionable information that can lead to protective actions taken by message receivers? In this project, we investigated individual responses to a simulated EEW message in a laboratory environment.

Public education about ShakeAlert earthquake early warning: evaluation of an animated video in English and Spanish

Jenny Crayne, Carla Herrán, Danielle Sumy, Marcie Benne, Todd Shagott, and Lori Peek

This mixed methods, dual-language (English/Spanish) study evaluates an animated video designed to increase awareness, understanding, and action related to ShakeAlert EEW. Results indicate that the video was enjoyable, easily understandable, and positively impacted viewers’ intentions to ‘Drop, Cover, and Hold On’ (DCHO) following a ShakeAlert-powered alert. Viewers also expressed a desire for more information about how to receive alerts and how to protect themselves in situations where DCHO is impractical. This study suggests that animated video, developed and disseminated in multiple languages, can be an effective tool for impacting public understanding and behavior related to geohazards. Additionally, the process and findings of this study suggest that outcomes may be improved by engaging multilingual and multicultural audiences earlier and throughout the video development process.

Scenes from an animated video about ShakeAlert EEW.

Evidence-based guidelines for protective actions and earthquake early warning systems

Sara K McBride, Hollie Smith, Meredith Morgoch, Danielle Sumy, Mariah Jenkins, Lori Peek, Ann Bostrom, Dare Baldwin, Elizabeth Reddy, Robert de Groot, Julia Becker, David Johnston, and Michele Wood

As Earthquake Early Warning systems, like ShakeAlert, develop, it is important to provide evidence-based recommendations for protective action so people know how to protect themselves when they receive an alert. Factors emerging from relevant literature include: (1) social, cultural, and environmental context, such as which people are present, what their social roles are, and in what type of building they are located when an earthquake happens, (2) demographic and experiential variables, such as gender and age as well as previous history with earthquakes; and (3) magnitude and intensity that influence the duration and impacts of the earthquake itself.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On instructions. Image taken from McBride et al. (2022).

Developing post-alert messaging for ShakeAlert, the earthquake early warning system for the West Coast of the United States of America

Sara K McBride, Ann Bostrom, Jeannette Sutton, Robert M. deGroot, Anne-Marie Baltay, Brian Terbush, Paul Bodin, Maximilian Dixon, Emily Holland, Ryan Arba, Paul Laustsen, Sophia Liu, and Margaret Vinci

Planned post-alert messaging can provide timely, crucial information to both emergency managers and ShakeAlert operators as well as calibrate expectations among various publics or public user groups and inform their responses to future alerts. We develop post-alert messaging in six steps: (1) assessment of ShakeAlert performance to date, (2) characterization of human behavior and response to earthquake alerts, (3) presentation of a decision tree for issuing post-alert messages, (4) design of a critical set of post-alert messaging scenarios, (5) elaboration of these scenarios with message templates for a variety of communication channels, and (6) development of a typology of earthquake alerts.  

Message decision flow chart. From McBride et al. (2020)

Social vulnerability and geographic access barriers to earthquake early warning education in museums and other free choice learning environments

Danielle S. Sumy, Oronde Drakes, Sara K. McBride, and Mariah Jenkins

Free choice learning environments (FCLEs), such as museums, public libraries, and national parks, are uniquely positioned to expand the reach of earthquake early warning through educational initiatives and resources. However, population demographics within the ShakeAlert states has yet to be examined; audience segmentation theories require a better understanding of the demographics of the people the system seeks to serve. We found that the cost of admission and the geographic distance away from FCLEs, including the potential cost and time of transportation, may lead to an urban-rural divide in visitor access.  

Locations of free-choice learning environments around the United States displayed on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Risk Index (NRI) for earthquake risk. From Sumy et al. (2023).