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Reducing seismic risk by understanding its cultural roots: Inference from an Italian case history

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DOI: 10.4236/ns.2013.58A1010    3,848 Downloads   5,570 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

The paper discusses how to approach the problem of the social mitigation of seismic risk, in order to reduce damage and grief consequent to earthquakes. An alert protocol, intended as a working hypothesis, is proposed based on the experience gained from analysis of the behaviour and social response to the threat before and after the great disaster of the L’Aquila earthquake on 6th April 2009. Authors propose a protocol addressing four levels of increasing alert based on signs of earthquake preparation and social concerns. In this sense, it works as an intensity scale and does not strictly relate to earthquake size (magnitude) or seismic hazard. The proposed alert protocol provides sensible measures for reducing vulnerability, which is the only factor that can be more or less efficiently controlled, based on structural and behavioural adjustments. Factors indicating the difficult relationship between politicians, scientific community and citizens are considered: 1) a serious gap between researchers and citizens; 2) measures adopted by local administrators and the National Civil Protection Service not agreed by the population; 3) misunderstanding originated from a lack of clarity of communication about scientific terminology; and 4) the lack of an alert procedure protocol. In the current situation, all these problems are crucial and contribute to the unpreparedness to face a seismic event, and thus greatly increase the risk. The adoption and implementation of an alert procedure protocol requires a preliminary assessment of the context and should be adapted to the local sensibility and culture. The application of a protocol may reduce the contrasts between preventive measures and individual responsibilities, making mitigation measures more feasible and socially acceptable. In this paper, risk evaluation is not strictly related to probabilistic or deterministic predictions. In fact, this is a result of a project that comes from the general analysis of risk and is not intended to give an alternative hazard estimate method. This paper proposes an alert protocol addressing four levels of increasing alert based on signs of earthquake generating preparation and social concerns. Finally, there is a suggestion on how to gradually communicate the threat and get citizens involved in the risk mitigation process.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Stoppa, F. and Berti, C. (2013) Reducing seismic risk by understanding its cultural roots: Inference from an Italian case history. Natural Science, 5, 78-91. doi: 10.4236/ns.2013.58A1010.

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