The New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) generated the strongest earthquakes ever observed in the lower forty-eight states in 1811 and 1812. And the region is overdue for another damaging quake. When self-proclaimed climatologist lben Browning predicted that a major earthquake would shatter the Heartland on 2 or 3 December 1990, many living within reach of the New Madrid fault zone reacted with varying combinations of preparation and panic.
John Farley’s study reports the results of four surveys conducted in the NMSZ both before and after the quake prediction. Thus, Farley notes the level of awareness and preparation at the height of the Browning-induced scare and shows to what extent earthquake awareness and preparedness were sustained in this region after the most widely publicized prediction in recent history proved baseless. All four surveys offer important insights into what people believe about earthquake risk in the NMSZ, what they know about earthquakes, what specific actions they have—and have not—taken in preparation for earthquakes, and what they think a severe quake would do to their neighborhoods.
Farley is the first researcher to study the response to an earthquake prediction while the prediction remained in effect and to continue the inquiry after the date covered by the prediction had passed. He is also the first researcher to look at earthquake awareness and preparedness in the NMSZ over an extended period of time.