SEISMOLOGISTS CAN HELP PEOPLE WHO FEAR EARTHQUAKES MAURICE LAMONTAGNE: National Earthquake Hazards Program, Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), 7 Observatory Cres., Ottawa K1A 0Y3, Canada; AND SYLVIE LA ROCHELLE: Psychologist, Member of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec
Seismologists are sometimes confronted with people's fear of earthquakes expressed in letters, phone calls or during media interviews. Some of the messages or phone calls can have an emotional content. In these communications, people can express their fear or their anxiety when dealing with a real, or a perceived, earthquake. In our opinion, seismologists should be better prepared to deal with people's emotional reactions and learn how one can respond to them appropriately. With their background in pure and applied sciences, seismologists may feel poorly equipped to face human reactions to earthquakes. With some basic intervention tools, however, seismologists can do much to help the people who fear earthquakes. Here are five suggestions for you, the seismologist:
1) You should reassure people who fear earthquakes about the normality of their reactions.
2) By listening, you can validate the emotional experience of these persons.
3) You should provide accurate and relevant information to demystify earthquake processes.
4) You should encourage people to share their experiences and feelings with members of their social network, such as family members, friends, and professionals.
5) You can encourage people to be informed about individual and family emergency preparedness measures (what to do before, during and after an earthquake).