[MSN] Fear of earthquakes is part of life in California. But people experience this anxiety in different ways. For some, the fear prompts them to take steps to protect themselves: strapping down heavy furniture, securing kitchen cabinets and retrofitting homes and apartments.
For others, the fear prompts denial — a willful ignorance of the dangers for years until the ground starts shaking.
Seismologist Lucy Jones has spent her career trying to understand public attitudes about earthquakes, with a focus on moving people past paralysis and denial.
Jones said the way experts like her used to talk about earthquakes wasn't very effective. They tended to focus on the probability of a major earthquake striking in the next 30 years — the length of a typical home mortgage. They also took pains to say what they didn't know, which she now believes allowed the public to tune out and hope for the best.
Now she is making a dramatically different point. She said that in a keynote speech to international scientists in Japan on May 21, she emphasized that a devastating earthquake will definitely happen, and that there is much the public can do to protect themselves.
Denial may be getting a bit harder these days. Over the last several years, a few California cities have taken dramatic steps to require retrofits of thousands of vulnerable buildings. And next year, scientists and the U.S. Geological Survey are expected to unveil the first limited public phase of an earthquake early-warning system that would eventually offer seconds and perhaps more than a minute of warning through smartphones and computers.Read More