New Zealanders' judgments of earthquake risk before and after the Canterbury earthquake: Do they relate to preparedness?

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The New Zealand Psychological Society
Previous research has examined judgments about earthquake likelihood after citizens have experienced an earthquake, but has not compared judgments in the affected region with other regions. Following the Darfield (Canterbury) earthquake, this research compared earthquake risk judgments in the affected region and those outside the region. Participants in Christchurch, Wellington and Palmerston North judged the likelihood of an earthquake before and after the 2010 Canterbury (Darfield) earthquake, near Christchurch. Wellington was chosen as there had been higher expectations of an earthquake in that area. Palmerston North was chosen to be comparable to Christchurch before the Darfield earthquake, in that many New Zealanders have expected an earthquake in Wellington, not Palmerston North. Participants judged earthquake likelihoods for their own city, for the rest of New Zealand and for Canterbury. Christchurch participants also indicated their preparedness before and after the earthquake. Expectations of an earthquake in Canterbury were low before the Darfield earthquake in all three regions and rose significantly after that earthquake. In contrast, Wellingtonians’ judgments of the likelihood of an earthquake in Wellington were high before the Darfield earthquake and did not rise after that earthquake. Christchurch participants’ risk perceptions showed only a weak relation to their preparedness. These results clarify how disasters such as major earthquakes affect judgments of earthquake risk for citizens inside and outside the affected area. The results show that these effects differ in cities where an earthquake is expected. Broader issues about preparing for earthquakes are also discussed.
New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 2011, 40 (4), pp. 7 - 11 (5)