In May 2020, a false earthquake alert message was sent to the city of Ridgecrest, CA, in the U.S.A., an area that just 10 months prior had experienced a significant series of earthquake events. The false alert was followed by a post-alert message, indicating that the message was cancelled and under investigation. This event, the first of its kind in the U.S.A., provided an opportunity to learn about public perceptions of the post-alert message, including what individuals understood about the threat and their safety, and what actions they should take as a result. We conducted individual interviews with 40 persons in the Ridgecrest community, followed by a series of focus groups in Southern California to discuss post-alert messages, and to learn about information people most needed following false earthquake alerts. We found that individuals with and without prior earthquake experience expressed confusion about content describing the investigatory actions of the organization and had a largely negative response toward content that complimented those who took action in response to the initial earthquake early warning. While current post-alert messages are intended to reinforce the good intentions of the organization and the protective actions taken by message receivers, the message issued was perceived by members of the public to be largely ineffective in achieving either objective because it did not provide the information they desired most—an explicit statement about their safety. Instead, message receivers need information that primarily affirms their current level of safety so they can return to normal functioning
Sutton, Jeannette; Wood, Michele M.; Crouch, Savanah; and Waugh, Nicholas A., "Public perceptions of U.S. earthquake early warning post-alert messages: Findings from focus groups and interviews" (2023). Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity Faculty Scholarship. 5.