ABSTRACT

In 2014 and 2015, two telephone surveys were conducted by the Insurance Bureau of Canada to evaluate the perception of earthquake hazard and risk in the province of Quebec, Canada. An additional survey evaluated the uptake of earthquake insurance in Quebec and in British Columbia. The surveys brought to light some sobering aspects regarding the perception and knowledge of earthquake hazard and risk and of individual earthquake response in Quebec. The surveys show that despite the large proportion (>75%) of the population who live in medium‐to‐high hazard zones, most Quebecers remain unaware of the potential danger or downplay the associated risk of damage and falsely assume that their basic insurance policy includes earthquake coverage. Also, only a small proportion of the population (15%) know the appropriate actions to take during an earthquake (i.e., drop, cover, and hold on [DCH]). This situation leads to the question of what role seismologists can play to improve earthquake awareness and preparedness. To increase awareness of the proper reaction during an earthquake, we suggest that seismologists use every opportunity to communicate DCH. The DCH message is especially important when the public’s attention is increased, for example following felt or damaging earthquakes, either local or distant. Seismologists could include DCH in their postearthquake media communications and in their public lectures. The low earthquake awareness is a major impediment to preparedness. Enhancing earthquake preparedness of the general population is a big challenge, and communicating hazard information is just one element of a larger picture. Direct earthquake experiences, attitudes and beliefs, and the perception of personal risks are all important factors in message receptivity with respect to earthquakes. Improving the general public’s preparedness requires coordinated and well‐considered strategies and actions derived from seismological and social sciences knowledge with the active participation of emergency management organizations. In regions with low earthquake awareness, this requires a coordinated, well‐considered long‐term plan with a strong public involvement at the local level.

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