Crisis Communication after Earthquakes in Greece and Japan: Effects on Seismic Disaster Management
- Informative messages, reporting earthquake parameters (magnitude and epicenter); these are released near real time after the earthquake. Messages regarding injuries or damages to infrastructure (e.g., building collapses) several minutes up to hours after an earthquake are also informative. This information is continuously updated.
- Warning messages about other secondary effects and their characteristics (e.g., tsunamis, landslides etc.). This information follows (and is based on) the initially resealed messages about earthquake parameters. Forecasting of aftershocks also belongs to this category. When (and where) earthquake early warning practices are established (e.g., Japan and the USA), alerts are issued in order to warn the public and systems a few seconds before the destructive shaking.
- Consulting messages about the appropriate safety measures and actions to be undertaken (e.g., going to open areas or moving to higher places and for how long). This information is available shortly after an earthquake and is also continuously updated.
- Guiding messages regarding instructions on assistance retrieval, refuge spaces, evacuation routes, health facilities, emergency telephone numbers etc. This information is available usually a few hours after an earthquake and it is updated continuously.
2. Research Queries, Scientific Background and Methodology
2.1. Scope and Research Queries
2.2. Dealing with Uncertainty in Scientific Seismic Infomration
2.3. Uncertainty Communication in Seismic Crisis Periods
3. Sources, Types and Modes of Emergency Communication of Earthquake Information: Greece and Japan
3.1.1. Public Administration Agencies as Emergency Information Sources and Crisis Management Authorities
3.1.2. Geoscience Information Centers
3.1.3. Independent Announcements by Scientists
3.1.4. The Role of Media and Social Networks
3.2.1. Geoscience Information Centers
3.2.2. Public Administration Agencies as Emergency Information Sources and Management Authorities
3.2.3. The Roles of Mass Media, Social Media and Social Networks as Information Sources
4. Examples of Actual Experiences of Seismic Crisis Communication and Impacts in Greece and Japan
4.1. Case studies in Greece
4.2. Case Study in Japan
6. Conclusions and Recommendations
- Epistemic uncertainty and variability inherent to the phenomenon are present in every case of seismic-prone country and influences the management actions and the level of trust toward the sources of information. It is evident that the emergency information of the first minutes after the initial seismic shock should be produced and disseminated as “transitional” information, thereby allowing it to be updated and for further details to be provided later. The communities that are affected by such crises should be trained to expect and live with the intermediary, insufficient and imprecise content of the first round of messages. Management authorities, on the other hand, should follow the precautionary principle at this early crisis stage and issue only short-term but maximum protection instructions.
- Ambiguity and cognitive diversity influences behavioral actions and adaptation/protection measures. Diverging cognitive frameworks create mistrust, cognitive disorder and chaos in the affected community. In general terms, cooperation/unification of the several scientific agencies and viewpoints and their alignment with political decision-making represent a good strategy that does not leave much room for disagreements in periods of emergency. In the case of Greece, the connections of the scientific agencies with the political/administrative hierarchy have remained weak, and the political and scientific antagonisms not only hamper crisis management but may cause the generation of secondary crises. In contrast to the case of Greece, Japan is featured by strong connections between the scientific institutes and the political/administrative structure at the highest level of the political hierarchy (the Cabinet’s Office), enhancing the trustworthiness of both scientific guidance and political decision-making. However, this tight and rigid structure at the national level may create difficulties in coordination with and embeddedness of the local level into the emergency information exchange and decision-making system.
- Uncertainty due to governance and coordination problems has important detrimental effects on prompt warning and response time. Japan represents a coherent administrative structure with well-trained members to address effectively large-scale disaster emergencies. On the other hand, in Greece, low coordination capacity was observed in the case of the Kos seismic crisis: the processing of emergency messages from the centrally located HL-NTWC to the distant island of Kos was delayed. In a totally missing preparedness context, the tsunami risk perceptions of the local people were shaped exclusively by past media reports referring to only huge tsunamis with devastating results. Therefore, the local community did not even have the opportunity to recognize the potentially dangerous local phenomenon.
- Technological gaps are present in all seismic-prone countries and influence information circulation and accessibility. Power outages and heavy traffic in official webpages are common problems during a seismic crisis. When the transmission of the emergency messages is interrupted, disaster preparedness and awareness are essential to save lives.
- Promote research in seismology to reduce epistemic uncertainty;
- Provide for alternative means of communication (resilience) to reduce uncertainty from technological failures;
- Upgrade preparedness level and organize training courses for the population, first responders and managers on the standardized emergency communication procedures to avoid misconceptions of messages and false perceptions during the crisis;
- Ensure a commonly shared minimum risk knowledge level among emergency managers;
- Immediately after the earthquake origin, issue only short-term but maximum protection consulting and instructive messages (apply the precautionary principle);
- Take care to constantly update the first, highly uncertain emergency messages and give advice to the population to constantly search for refreshed information;
- Connect recent pre-disaster research findings (hazard and shake maps) with the informative and warning messages of the first minutes after the earthquake origin;
- Do not cover up uncertainty in the emergency messages;
- Do not issue warning messages that are very specific/accurate (hiding uncertainty) or very general (i.e., ineffective in triggering protective responses);
- Build a unique, unified and unanimous scientific-crisis management structure at central/national level but ensure constant exchange of information and feedback from and to the regional and local level as well as independent experts. Multi-hazard and multi-risk observatories at the regional/local level could contribute to this direction by performing the following functions: (a) receive centrally processed scientific information and data and respond with feedback information on the basis of local observations; (b) make local observations of primary and secondary hazards and systemic risk dynamics with the support of new technologies; and (c) operate two-way emergency information communication with the exposed regional/local communities.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
|CDMC||Central Disaster Management Council|
|J-SHIS||Japan Seismic Hazard Information System|
|EAC||Earthquake Assessment Committee|
|MSD Theory||Media System Dependency Theory|
|EMSC||European Mediterranean Seismological Centre|
|NEAC||National Emergency Aid Centre|
|EPPO||Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization|
|NHOC||National Health Operations Center|
|ERCC||Emergency Response Coordination Centre of the European Union|
|NIED||National Research Institute of Erath Science an Disaster Prevention|
|ERCJ||Earthquake Research Committee in Japan|
|NOAGI||Institute of Geodynamics, National Observatory of Athens|
|ETAS model||Epidemic-Type Aftershock Sequence|
|GPS||Global Positioning System|
|OBS||Ocean Bottom Sensors|
|GSCP||General Secretariat for Civil Protection|
|PSH maps||Probabilistic Seismic Hazard maps|
|GTS||Global Tele-communication System|
|PSHA||Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment|
|HCG||Hellenic Coast Guard|
|PSSC||Permanent Special Scientific Committee for the Assessment of Seismic Hazard and the Evaluation of Seismic Risk|
|HERP||Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion|
|HFS||Hellenic Fire Service|
|HL-NTWC||Hellenic National Tsunami Warning Center|
|PTHA||Probabilistic Tsunami Hazard Assessment|
|HNDS||Hellenic National Defence General Staff|
|PTWC||Pacific Tsunami Warning Center|
|HPF||Hellenic Police Force|
|SHA||Seismic Hazard Assessment|
|HUSN||Hellenic United Seismic Network|
|TEW||Tsunami Early Warning|
|IOC-UNESCO||Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO|
|TWM||Tsunami Warning Messages|
|ITSAK||Institute of Engineering Seismology and Earthquake Engineering|
|JMA||Japan Meteorological Agency|
|JRC||Joint Research Centre|
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|Time of Issue||Types of Messages||Message Content|
|Prepared and published during the quiescence period||Long-term Evaluation of the Seismic Activity|
Aleatory variability (source processes) and epistemic uncertainty (maximum magnitude and occurrences rates estimations).
|A few days before the possible event.||Short-term earthquake forecast|
Probabilistic uncertainty with respect to the complex phenomenon but also related to the unpredictable behavioral reaction of the population and to inferences by the scientists.
|At a research stage|
|Earthquake Origin Time|
|Within a few minutes after the Earthquake Origin Time||Rapid seismic-intensity information|
Uncertainty related to the preliminary estimations of the parameters (depending on the magnitude estimation methodology and hypocenter location determination)
Informative and Warning message
Epistemic uncertainty depending on first magnitude estimations and pre-simulated tsunami scenarios also related to technology or administrative issues. Uncertainty weakens when observed data are available.
|Shortly after the earthquake (within the first hour) and continuously updated||Safety measures|
Uncertainty depending on level of preparedness
|Evacuation instructions (e.g., go to open areas or move to higher places)|
Epistemic uncertainty (lack of knowledge on the impact, reducible in time as in situ visits are realized)
|Injuries, buildings damaged, rescue operations if necessary.|
|A few hours after the earthquake and continuously updated||Guidelines|
Uncertainty depending on level of preparedness
|assistance retrieval, refuge spaces, evacuation routes etc.|
|Same day or a day after the earthquake and continuously updated.||Assessment of Seismic Hazard and Evaluation of Seismic Risk|
Uncertainty related to probabilistic estimations and also due to inferences by the scientists.
|Means of dissemination of Seismic Emergency Information vs. Accessibility to the public|
|Uncertainty due to the Communication system characteristics. Ambiguity depending on level of preparedness and public risk perceptions|
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Fokaefs, A.; Sapountzaki, K. Crisis Communication after Earthquakes in Greece and Japan: Effects on Seismic Disaster Management. Sustainability 2021, 13, 9257. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169257
Fokaefs A, Sapountzaki K. Crisis Communication after Earthquakes in Greece and Japan: Effects on Seismic Disaster Management. Sustainability. 2021; 13(16):9257. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169257Chicago/Turabian Style
Fokaefs, Anna, and Kalliopi Sapountzaki. 2021. "Crisis Communication after Earthquakes in Greece and Japan: Effects on Seismic Disaster Management" Sustainability 13, no. 16: 9257. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169257