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July 1, 2022

Perceptions of Earthquake Early Warnings on the US West Coast

Dunn, Peter T.; Ahn, Alicia Y. E.; Bostrom, Ann; Vidale, John E. (2016). Perceptions of Earthquake Early Warnings on the US West Coast. International Journal Of Disaster Risk Reduction, 20, 112 – 122.

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Earthquake early warning systems can provide seconds to minutes of lead time by alerting people that an earthquake has started and shaking is coming, enabling them to take protective action. To examine how earthquake early warnings might be received on the U.S. West coast, we conducted surveys of residents in the west coast states of Washington, Oregon and California (N=2595) through Google paywall intercept surveys administered in three rounds between September 2014 and September 2015. A majority of residents in all states (61% WA, 54% OR, 70% CA) have personally experienced an earthquake. Those who have experienced an earthquake perceive higher risk and greater potential for effectively reducing that risk with earthquake early warning. Although respondents feel that federal and local government should pay for earthquake early warning, almost two-thirds report being willing to pay something for an Earthquake Early Alert app on [their] smartphone or personal computer. Median willingness to pay per month is $1. Perceived risk, perceived effectiveness of earthquake early warning, and anticipated or experienced emotional responses to earthquakes influence judgments of and preferences for earthquake early warning, although personal experience of earthquakes conditions these influences. Further, highly visible mass media communications such as the New Yorker article The Really Big One and the movie San Andreas increase earthquake risk perceptions. Overall, interest in and support for earthquake early warning on the U.S. West Coast appears strong.


Fear Appeals; Hazard; Model; Risk; Preparedness; Information; Adjustment; Context; Earthquake Early Warning; Risk Perception; Risk Communication; Hazard Preparation; Willingness To Pay