A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Challenges and Opportunities for Pre-Crisis Emergency Risk Communication: Lessons Learned from the Earthquake Community


Prior to the 2009 L’Aquila event, earthquake forecasting and early warning research focused specifically on earthquakes as the crisis events. Although this is still true, the manslaughter convictions of six earthquake scientists and one public official for failed risk communication in 2009 served as a catalyst for expanding these goals to also intentionally examine the challenges of communicating earthquake risk with non-scientific during the pre-crisis stage of the earthquake lifecycle. The Crisis Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) Model developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides specific guidelines for doing so. Thus, based on a thematic analysis of interviews with 21 earthquake scientists, this study identifies what those responsible for communicating regularly about earthquake risk see as major communication challenges and the extent to which the CERC model recommendations are useful for addressing them. Results suggest that earthquake risk science communicators are most effective when they translate scientific and technical information simply, respond to competing messages, capitalize on relevant popular culture references, employ risk communication campaigns during ‘quiet periods’, and acknowledge uncertainty. These findings have implications not only for earthquake science risk communicators, but also for expanding the pre-crisis stage best practices proposed in the Crisis Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) model. Essentially, this study reveals that soliciting and responding to feedback in the pre-crisis stage could help spokespersons clarify or correct any messages that are perceived by audiences as unclear or are simply not accurate. Doing so may improve risk communication effectiveness not only during the pre-crisis stage but also throughout the earthquake crisis lifecycle.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Herovic, Emina, Timothy L. Sellnow, and Deanna D. Sellnow. 2019. "Challenges and Opportunities for Pre-Crisis Emergency Risk Communication: Lessons Learned from the Earthquake Community." Journal of Risk Research (February). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13669877.2019.1569097?journalCode=rjrr20

START Author(s):