Barriers to Earthquake Preparedness: A Risk Representation Approach


Most research on people’s earthquake preparedness activity in highly seismic areas has assumed that low levels of preparedness are attributable to insufficient awareness of seismic risk. However, empirical evidence for this assumption is weak. Furthermore, there is growing appreciation of the role played by social, cultural and emotional variables in risk perception and behaviour.

This study explores these socio-cultural and emotional dimensions via 144 interviews and questionnaires with matched samples of locals in Seattle (USA), Osaka (Japan) and Izmir (Turkey). The data shows that high awareness of possible seismic preparedness measures was not translated into behaviour, with all sites demonstrating low uptake of potential adjustments, though the North Americans adopted significantly more adjustments than the other cultures. Thematic analysis of the interview data suggests that adjustment behaviour is undermined by anxiety, distrust, distancing self from earthquake risk and fatalistic beliefs. These aspects have not traditionally been taken into account when designing programmes for the promotion of earthquake preparedness. Hence the talk concludes by recommending how culture-specific disaster mitigation plans may be developed to address these factors.

About the speakers

Prof Helene Joffe

Helene Joffe is a Professor in Psychology at UCL and co-founder of the EPICentre research group. She has worked extensively in the field of public engagement with risk; specifically in emerging infectious diseases, climate change, neuroscience and earthquakes. Her work has been funded by ESRC, EPSRC, Faraday Institute and the Rail Safety and Standards Board.

Prof Tiziana Rossetto

Tiziana Rossetto is a Professor in Earthquake Engineering at UCL and Director of the EPICentre research group. She works primarily on the vulnerability of structures to earthquakes and tsunami hazards, and has collaborated with Prof. Joffe on risk representation in earthquakes. She is Vice-Chair of SECED, the former Chair of EEFIT and is part of the Willis Research Network. Her research work is primarily funded through a number of grants with EPSRC and GEM.

Further information

This evening meeting is organised by SECED and chaired by Dr Sean Wilkinson (Newcastle University). Non-members of the society are welcome to attend. Attendance at this meeting is free. Seats are allocated on a first come, first served basis. For further information, please contact Greg James (tel. 020 7665 2229).


Event Details

Event Date 27/11/2013 6:00 pm
Institution of Civil Engineers
1 Great George Street Westminster, London SW1P 3AA United Kingdom
Institution of Civil Engineers

Location Map

Recordings of past events

Most of our evening meetings are recorded, including the biennial Mallet-Milne Lecture. The recordings are managed by the ICE and are made available for a year after the event. Go to ICE's Event Archive to find recordings of recent SECED events. SECED members (and ICE members) get exclusive early access to recorded lectures for a period of three months after the event. After this period, recordings are made available to all users.


The events archive is not actively maintained. This means that the information provided for each past event may no longer be correct. For example, people may no longer work for the companies to which they were previously affiliated, and hyperlinks may be broken. SECED assumes no responsiblity for the accuracy of any information contained in the events archive. 

Go to top