Operational earthquake forecasts (OEFs) are represented as time‐dependent probabilities of future earthquake hazard and risk. These probabilities can be presented in a variety of formats, including tables, maps, and text‐based scenarios. In countries such as Aotearoa New Zealand, the U.S., and Japan, OEFs have been released by scientific organizations to agencies and the public, with the intent of providing information about future earthquake hazard and risk, so that people can use this information to inform their decisions and activities. Despite questions being raised about the utility of OEF for decision‐making, past earthquake events have shown that agencies and the public have indeed made use of such forecasts. Responses have included making decisions about safe access into buildings, cordoning, demolition safety, timing of infrastructure repair and rebuild, insurance, postearthquake building standards, postevent land‐use planning, and public communication about aftershocks. To add to this body of knowledge, we undertook a survey to investigate how agencies and GNS Science staff used OEFs that were communicated following the 7.8 2016 Kaikōura earthquake in Aotearoa New Zealand. We found that agencies utilized OEFs in many of the ways listed previously, and we document individual employee’s actions taken in their home‐life context. Challenges remain, however, regarding the interpretation of probabilistic information and applying this to practical decision‐making. We suggest that science agencies cannot expect nontechnical users to understand and utilize forecasts without additional support. This might include developing a diversity of audience‐relevant OEF information for communication purposes, alongside advice on how such information could be utilized.