Earthquake Conspiracy Theorists Are Wreaking Havoc During Disasters

It is now part of our emergency management world.

by Eric Holdeman / December 31, 2019

I remember the good old days of "rumor control." This was part of the public information officer (PIO) function in the Information Center (IC) at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). (Note: I don't believe there are really many Joint Information Centers (JIC) that include multiple governments). 

Rumor control was needed when the media started sharing incorrect information that they erroneously picked up in the process of covering a story. We would have a bank of televisions monitoring what these media outlets were saying. They were also a source of situational awareness for the disaster itself. 

Today we have a totally different challenge, conspiracy theorists.

See this fairly long article about the challenge for one particular hazard, earthquakes: Earthquake Conspiracy Theorists Are Wreaking Havoc During Emergencies.

Feeding this movement is the lack of trust in government that is being fed from multiple sources, to include the current White House. Who can you trust to give you accurate information on earthquakes, flooding, global warming, etc.? Certainly not the government agencies and scientists that study these hazards for a living! 

While the linked story is about earthquake conspiracy theorists, I expect there is a corresponding list of Internet experts who will hold forth on a whole host of hazards and risks. You are not going to be able to wave your "emergency management wand" and make them go away. 

One last quote to share from the linked story above. I found it to be very true about the significant difference of an earthquake disaster:

“Earthquakes psychologically are very different than pretty much any other disaster we experience, because of the sudden onset,” she said. “When we’re looking at hurricanes we have seven days, often, that something might be coming. Tornadoes, there’s a tornado season and you get some warning. There’s a heightened season where you’re aware you have to take preparedness precautions. Wildfires, you’re looking at short time frames sometimes, where you have 10 minutes to evacuate your house, but at least there’s a seasonal aspect to it. Earthquakes happen 365 days a year—any season, any time, while you’re in the shower or driving to work. That makes it fundamentally different than most other natural hazards.” 

Sarah McBride, USGS

This is why I call earthquakes, "Come-as-you-are disasters."

Platforms & Programs