Exciting news! We're transitioning to the Statewide California Earthquake Center. Our new website is under construction, but we'll continue using this website for SCEC business in the meantime. We're also archiving the Southern Center site to preserve its rich history. A new and improved platform is coming soon!

Earthquake Country Alliance Goes Virtual to Continue Preparedness and Mitigation Activities in 2020

ECA Statewide Map showing counties within each regional alliance

ECA's four regional alliances span the most active earthquake regions of the state.
Join Us to receive statewide or regional updates
and participate in activities.

The SCEC Communication, Education, and Outreach program’s primary structure for partnerships and community outreach throughout California is the Earthquake Country Alliance (ECA). This public-private grassroots partnership of more than 3,000 people engages organizations, communities and households across the state to improve earthquake and tsunami preparedness, mitigation and resilience. ECA was created in southern California in 2003 when SCEC’s Mark Benthien brought together partners from many organizations to organize activities in advance of the 10th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake, and then continued to develop new materials and outreach activities for several years. Then in 2008, ECA and its many partners created the Great Southern California ShakeOut regional drill based on the USGS-led ShakeOut scenario of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the southernmost San Andreas fault (featuring SCEC ground motion visualizations). More than 5.4 million southern Californians participated in what was planned as a one-time event. 

With the expansion of ShakeOut statewide in 2009 (now in its 12th year and part of a global network of ShakeOut drills), ECA also became a statewide coalition now comprised of  ECA Southern California, ECA Bay Area, Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group and now the newly formed ECA Central Coast. Each region has three chairs that are part of a Statewide Steering Committee, and coordinators that manage membership, workshop planning, communications, speaker requests, media relations, and other activities. Significant support for ECA is provided by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services via a subgrant of its annual FEMA NEHRP funding. 

Because of COVID-19, ECA has shifted many of its activities to online modes, with recordings now available. In May, webinars were held by ECA Bay Area (May 19) and ECA SoCal (May 20), each focused on the topic of Concurrent Disasters: What if an earthquake occurred during a pandemic? This summer, online meetings with breakout discussions highlighted Inclusive Planning and Adaptations for ShakeOut Drills (SoCal: August 26; Bay Area: September 10).  Each of these events included a focus on outreach and materials for people with disabilities or access and functional needs. ECA Central Coast offered its first online workshop on October 7 which featured an overview of regional earthquake hazards by SCEC Board of Directors Vice-Chair Emily Brodsky (UC Santa Cruz).

ECA's Earthquake Safety Video Series shows self-protective actions for various situations.
The full version of this video provides guidance for users of six types of mobility assistance devices.

Each year, ECA Bay Area and ECA SoCal also support their communities by offering ECA Mini Awards, which are $500 packages of education, earthquake preparedness, or mitigation supplies to help communities and organizations improve their resilience. While delayed due to COVID-19, this year 8 ECA Bay Area Mini Awards and 12 ECA SoCal Mini Awards were distributed.  Winners will share about their activities at ECA online workshops in November. The application for 2021 awards will online soon, and will include awards for ECA Central Coast for the first time.  Join us now to be notified when applications are being accepted.

In addition, ECA has statewide sector-based committees which focus on different focus areas of the community including healthcare, public sector, businesses, and higher education audiences. Statewide sector-based committees provide an opportunity to engage with and employ the knowledge of others within the sector for development of ECA materials, participation in outreach activities, and development of webinars. Statewide sector-based committees are expanding to encompass more diversity and encourage inclusion from a wide variety of participants. For example, ECA’s Seniors and People with Disabilities Committee has developed a variety of materials and videos, with a focus on self-protection guidance and planning with personal support teams. Other committees have also developed sector-specific materials, all of which are shared globally via Shakeout. Our Multicultural Committee has focused on the translation of more of our materials into Spanish, which can be found on ECA’s Spanish-language website www.Terremotos.org. Most resources are related to ECA’s Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety, our key messaging framework for what to do before, during, and after earthquakes. 

The most collaborative virtual activity ECA is implementing this year, as an alternative to our regular in-person outreach activities, is our Safer At Home Webinar Series, with attendance for each webinar averaging more than 500 people. Based on ECA’s Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety, each webinar has been hosted by a different statewide sector-based committee or regional leader, and have included live demonstrations, brief presentations, videos, and participant Q&A to increase awareness and foster best practices. The recordings for Steps 1-5 are now online along with presentation materials and other useful resources. Closed captioning is available for each, with Spanish captions now online for Steps 1-3 (others will be completed soon). Webinars for Steps 6 and 7 will be held in October and November.


To see our other "Safer At Home" Webinars, click the "1/5" at the top or visit on YouTube.

SCEC CEO program staff each has key roles in administering ECA. As CEO’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, I serve as Deputy Director of Earthquake Country Alliance. In this role I am the liaison to ECA Bay Area and the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group, and to all statewide sector-based committees. Gabriela Noriega is the liaison for ECA SoCal (and supports Spanish translation and outreach, such as this Spanish-language podcast!). Jason Ballmann is the liaison for the new ECA Central Coast and also leads the ECA Media and Participation Bureaus, which coordinate statewide media relations and ShakeOut/TsunamiZone registration recruitment. John Marquis manages ECA’s websites (EarthquakeCountry.org and Terremotos.org) as well as the international ShakeOut.org and TsunamiZone.org sites.  SCEC Associate Director Mark Benthien serves as ECA’s Executive Director and staff liaison for the ECA Events Bureau which manages requests for presentations (now online) and in-person preparedness events. All work closely with the staff of the Cal OES Earthquake, Tsunami, and Volcano Hazards Branch to implement annual goals, and lead regular web-based calls with leaders from each region, committee, or bureau. 

We look forward to returning to in-person activities at some point, but for now are learning how to reach many more people statewide through new approaches. We expect that ECA’s new virtual activities are likely to continue in some form even once pandemic restrictions are lifted, as they have already allowed many more people to become involved and receive our information.  Once again, join us to be notified about upcoming events or new resources!


About the Author

sandow's picture Sharon Sandow serves as Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Communication, Education and Outreach team. In that role, she serves as Deputy Director of Earthquake Country Alliance, building partnership statewide in her roles as regional alliance liaison for ECA Bay Area and the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group. In addition, she leads outreach and management of the statewide sector-based committees which are focused on engagement of various sectors of the community. She holds her J.D. from Loyola Law School and her Masters in Justice Management from University of Nevada Reno. 


The Earthquake Country Alliance is supported through a subgrant from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services which receives NEHRP state-support from FEMA’s Building Science Branch. Additional activities are supported through SCEC’s funding from the National Science Foundation (Cooperative Agreement EAR-1600087) and U.S. Geological Survey (Cooperative Agreement G17AC00047), and at times other sponsors at various levels.   

Reporters seeking interviews and other needs should email Mark Benthien and Jason Ballmann (SCEC's media contacts), and consult SCEC.org/media.

We study why and how earthquakes occur, evaluate their effects, 
and help societies prepare to survive and recover.
SCEC is headquartered at the University of Southern California with a 
community of more than 1,000 scientists across 75 institutions.