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U.S. Geological Survey
Professional Paper 1553-B

Prepared in cooperation with the National Science Foundation

The Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989—Public Response

Edited by Patricia A. Bolton


photo of lawn with camping gear where people moved out of unsafe structure

Major earthquakes provide seismologists and engineers an opportunity to examine the performance of the Earth and the man-made structures in response to the forces of the quake. So, too, do they provide social scientists an opportunity to delve into human responses evoked by the ground shaking and its physical consequences. The findings from such research can serve to guide the development and application of programs and practices designed to reduce death, injury, property losses, and social disruption in subsequent earthquakes. This chapter contains findings from studies focused mainly on public response to the Loma Prieta earthquake; that is, on the behavior and perceptions of the general population rather than on the activities of specific organizations or on the impact on procedures or policies. A major feature of several of these studies is that the information was collected from the population throughout the Bay area, not just from persons in the most badly damaged communities or who had suffered the greatest losses. This wide range serves to provide comparisons of behavior for those most directly affected by the earthquake with others who were less directly affected by it but still had to consider it very “close to home.”

This publication consists of the following articles:

  • Introduction, by Patricia A. Bolton

  • Human behavior during and immediatelty after the earthquake, by Linda B. Bourque, Lisa A. Russell, and James D. Goltz

  • Citizen participation in emergency response, by Paul W. O'Brien and Dennis S. Mileti

  • Public response to aftershock warnings, by Dennis S. Mileti and Paul W. O'Brien

  • Emergency sheltering and housing of earthquake victims: the case of Santa Cruz County, by Robert C. Bolin and Lois M. Stanford

  • Building content hazards and behavior of mobility-restricted residents, by Mansour Rahimi and Glenn Azevedo

  • Earthquake preparedness behavior of students and nonstudents, by John-Paul Mulilis and T. Shelley Duval

Download the text of this publication as a 71-page PDF file (pp1553b.pdf; 2 MB)

For questions about the content of this report, contact Tom Holzer

This publication is part of the set of four multi-chapter USGS Professional Papers on the Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989:

Professional Paper 1550, Earthquake Occurrence, Coordinators: William H. Bakun and William H. Prescott

Professional Paper 1551, Strong Ground Motion and Ground Failure, Coordinator: Thomas L. Holzer

Professional Paper 1552, Performance of the Built Environment, Coordinator, Thomas L. Holzer

Professional Paper 1553, Societal Response, Coordinator: Dennis S. Mileti

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Maintained by: Michael Diggles
Created: July 15, 2006
Last modified: July 15, 2006 (mfd)