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Considerations for creating equitable and inclusive communication campaigns associated with ShakeAlert, the earthquake early warning system for the West Coast of the USA

April 5, 2022


The 2019 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) cites earthquakes as the most damaging natural hazard globally, causing billions of dollars of damage and killing thousands of people. Earthquakes have the potential to drastically impact physical, social and economic landscapes; to reduce this risk, earthquake early warning (EEW) systems have been developed. However, these technical EEW systems do not operate in a vacuum; the inequities in social systems, along with the needs of diverse populations, must be considered when developing these systems and their associated communication campaigns.


This article reviews aspects of social vulnerability as they relate to ShakeAlert, the EEW system for the USA. The authors identified two theories (relationship management theory and mute group theory) to inform self-reflective questions for agencies managing campaigns for EEW systems, which can assist in the development of more inclusive communication practices. Finally, the authors suggest this work contributes to important conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues within early warning systems and earthquake preparedness campaigns in general.


To increase inclusivity, Macnamara (2012) argues that self-reflective questioning while analyzing perspective, philosophy and approaches for a campaign can help. Specific to EEW campaigns, developers may find self-reflective questions a useful approach to increase inclusion. These questions are guided by two theories and are explored in the paper.

Research limitations/implications

Several research limitations exist. First, this work explores two theories to develop a combined theoretical model for self-reflective questions. Further research is required to determine if this approach and the combination of these two theories have adequately informed the development of the reflective questions.


The authors could find little peer-reviewed work examining DEI for EEW systems, and ShakeAlert in particular. While articles on early warning systems exist that explore aspects of this, EEW and ShakeAlert, with its very limited time frames for warnings, creates unique challenges.