If you could predict an earthquake, should you?

January 21, 2009 at 9:53 pm 1 comment

I just finished reading a couple of very interesting articles in Disaster Recovery Journal.  They are kind of a point, counterpoint on the subject of disaster prediction. Here they are considering earthquakes and what would be the ramifications of warning a major population center of an upcoming event.

The first article which appeared in the Fall 2008 issue (http://www.drj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2335&Itemid=419&ed=48)  argues in favor of not warning because of the potential for panic, looting, civil unrest and a run on the local banks. It is a pretty scary scenario.

Excerpt: “In fact, an advance prediction of any major natural disaster like an earthquake will let loose another kind of man-made disaster that can actually cause more damage than the impending natural disaster. To understand how, just imagine any densely populated city in any country containing a few million citizens. Imagine a situation where some reliable agency predicts a guaranteed major quake that will hit the city in the next 24 hours, and blasts the warning through mails, text messages, radio, TV, public address system, etc.
Now imagine what will happen next.

Now on the other or counterpoint side is the arguement that yes you should, as long as the predicition can be made accurately. (http://www.drj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2411&Itemid=419&ed=49)

This piece carefully rebuts all of the points in the previous article using the experiance of the US hurricane and tornado warning systems showing that warnings made have saved lives, property and have not resulted in any of the panic driven scenarios drawn up in the first article.

Excerpt: “Generally, the tornado and hurricane warning systems have cut death rates (deaths per thousand population) by more than 90 percent in the last 60 years!
Storm warnings aren’t just a matter of interest just to the public: B2B warnings of high-impact weather are an essential element of business continuity. On Feb. 5, 2008, I was involved in issuing a tornado warning to the Caterpillar plant in Oxford, Miss., allowing them to move more than 80 employees on-site at the time to shelter before the storm hit. The story of Caterpillar’s people rallying to restore production in less than two weeks is the story of a feature article in The Wall Street Journal of May 19, 2008. The fact the warning kept their people safe and ready to return immediately to work underpinned the recovery effort.

In my book manuscript, “Warnings – The Remarkable True Story of Science’s Battle to Tame the Weather,” I document the development of the storm warning system in the United States that protects us every day. Other geosciences can adapt what meteorologists have learned into more effective warnings for tsunamis and volcanoes and, when scientifically possible, earthquakes.

There is no reason, given sufficient accuracy, earthquake warnings should not be made public just like warnings of tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards. Let’s hope earthquake science progresses to the point we have that opportunity to save lives and property.

I agree with the author in that warnings should absolutely be issued when they become accurate and I sincerely hope that they become so soon as I live in Southern California!

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to: askthefm@gmail.com

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Entry filed under: Disaster Preparedness. Tags: , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. ahrcanum  |  April 6, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    No question about it- warn people for heaven’s sake. If they can evacuate the FL, Keys orderly it can be done anywhere.


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