Friday, July 4, 2008

The Great Southern California ShakeOut

The best way to celebrate the Fourth is to celebrate the kind of citizen driven public programs that really benefit people. To this end, I give you The Great Southern California ShakeOut!

I recently (~10 minutes ago) found out about The Great Southern California ShakeOut, which is a fantastic initiative designed to educate Californians about earthquake preparedness. Set to run the week of Nov. 12-16, the ShakeOut is a series of events that includes the world’s largest earthquake drill, a conference on earthquake policy, and state-wide emergency response drills. The USGS is participating in the effort, and the whole thing has a slick website with many links, as well as a Blog designed to keep the updates rolling.

In addition to the laudable goal of helping people who live in hazard zones deal with the inevitable clash of geology and civilization (which, at last score, was something like Geology – 109, Civilization – 0), efforts like this could also be used to help folks learn about the science behind these natural systems. As seen in the recent flooding in the mid-west, fundamental misunderstandings regarding Earth system processes still permeate the public mindset (i.e., multiple “500-year floods” within a short period); the first step to adequately preparing for disasters is to understand the processes at work, whether they be fault motions, drainage basin processes, or hurricane dynamics.

To this end, the USGS and the ShakeOut initiative has put up a couple of circulars, including a 300+ page Open File Report detailing the science behind the simulation scenario (a 7.8 magnitude earthquake), and provides some nice, simplified science outreach material. Hopefully, in addition to taking the preparations to heart, people will also start to appreciate how much of an impact fundamental science can have on their lives. Good job, ShakeOut!

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