The First “A” Alert of the Parkfield Earthquake Prediction Experiment: A Description of Organizational Response

August 1994 (VOL. 12, NO. 2)

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The Parkfield Earthquake Prediction Experiment has been ongoing effort since the mid-1980s. As the first earthquake prediction officially endorsed by the National and California Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Councils it has received considerable attention from earth scientists, social scientists, emergency services officials and members of the news media. One outcome of this experiment has been the development of a concerted effort to inform residents in the area of risk about their earthquake vulnerability and about what can be done to lessen the impacts of earthquakes. Involved in this effort has been the development of a comprehensive alert notification system for detecting changes in the risk and communicating those changes to emergency officials and citizens throughout the area. In October, 1992, when precursor anomalies indicated that the Parkfield earthquake might be imminent, the U.S. Geological Survey issued the first A-level alert of the Parkfield experiment. This paper depicts organizational response to this unique alert situation. Results from this case study suggest that while the alert was taken seriously by emergency and life-support organizations, it amounted to little more than an unannounced drill.