Observations from the Great Southern California Earthquake ShakeOut

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Becker, J.S. 2009 Observations from the Great Southern California Earthquake ShakeOut. Lower Hutt, N.Z.: GNS Science. GNS Science report 2009/31 20 p.

Abstract: The Great Southern California ShakeOut involved the development of a realistic earthquake scenario, from which a series of earthquake related activities were initiated. The ShakeOut scenario was developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and partners, and was based on a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. After its development, the scenario was workshopped with stakeholders to determine the impacts a 7.8 earthquake would have on society, and the potential emergency response that would be needed for such an event. An emergency management exercise – the Golden Guardian 2008 - was organised and run to reflect the scenario. This exercise began at 10:00 am on 13 November 2008 after the occurrence of a hypothetical earthquake event, and ran for several days. As part of the exercise, a ShakeOut earthquake drill was also arranged and held at 10:00 am the same day. For the ShakeOut drill, people were asked to ‘drop cover and hold’ as if a real earthquake was occurring. Before the Golden Guardian exercise and ShakeOut drill were held, information about earthquakes, how you can practically prepare for an earthquake, what other people were doing and current earthquake-related community activities, was provided through multiple communication channels and repeated constantly. A website was also set up where people could sign up and indicate their participation in the drill. The comprehensive communication process and its associated activities prompted a large number of individuals, community groups, emergency management organisations, private businesses, schools and other educational facilities to become involved in participating in the Golden Guardian exercise and ShakeOut drill. In total, an astounding 5.2 million people signed up on the ShakeOut website to participate in the drill on 13 November 2008. While the communication messages and community activities got people to think and talk about earthquakes and participate in the exercise and drill, it is difficult to say what influence the ShakeOut had in terms of getting people to undertake household preparedness activities (e.g., making emergency plans, storing food and water). A quantitative survey is required to accurately measure any changes, and this will be undertaken as part of future research. Preliminary data for hardware sales at Home Depot, a home improvement store in the U.S, did indicate that sales of preparedness items (e.g., furniture straps, earthquake putty, crank radios and other tools) rose in the weeks leading up to and immediately after the ShakeOut drill. Anecdotal discussions with community members also pointed to the importance of community-based participation in getting people involved in the ShakeOut exercise and drill, and in getting prepared for disasters. (auth)