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Barriers to Earthquake Preparedness: A Risk Representation Approach
27 Nov 2013 18:00 - 19:30
Institution of Civil Engineers - London
Evening meetings



Most research on people’s earthquake preparedness activity in highly seismic areas has assumed that low levels of preparedness are attributable to insufficient awareness of seismic risk. However, empirical evidence for this assumption is weak. Furthermore, there is growing appreciation of the role played by social, cultural and emotional variables in risk perception and behaviour.

This study explores these socio-cultural and emotional dimensions via 144 interviews and questionnaires with matched samples of locals in Seattle (USA), Osaka (Japan) and Izmir (Turkey). The data shows that high awareness of possible seismic preparedness measures was not translated into behaviour, with all sites demonstrating low uptake of potential adjustments, though the North Americans adopted significantly more adjustments than the other cultures. Thematic analysis of the interview data suggests that adjustment behaviour is undermined by anxiety, distrust, distancing self from earthquake risk and fatalistic beliefs. These aspects have not traditionally been taken into account when designing programmes for the promotion of earthquake preparedness. Hence the talk concludes by recommending how culture-specific disaster mitigation plans may be developed to address these factors.

About the speakers

Prof Helene Joffe

Helene Joffe is a Professor in Psychology at UCL and co-founder of the EPICentre research group. She has worked extensively in the field of public engagement with risk; specifically in emerging infectious diseases, climate change, neuroscience and earthquakes. Her work has been funded by ESRC, EPSRC, Faraday Institute and the Rail Safety and Standards Board.

Prof Tiziana Rossetto

Tiziana Rossetto is a Professor in Earthquake Engineering at UCL and Director of the EPICentre research group. She works primarily on the vulnerability of structures to earthquakes and tsunami hazards, and has collaborated with Prof. Joffe on risk representation in earthquakes. She is Vice-Chair of SECED, the former Chair of EEFIT and is part of the Willis Research Network. Her research work is primarily funded through a number of grants with EPSRC and GEM.

Further information

This evening meeting is organised by SECED and chaired by Dr Sean Wilkinson (Newcastle University). Non-members of the society are welcome to attend. Attendance at this meeting is free. Seats are allocated on a first come, first served basis. For further information, please contact Greg James (tel. 020 7665 2229).


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