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Toward an Understanding of the Gap between Earthquake Science and Local Policy-Makers in Orange County, California

Eric E. Runnerstrom

Published 2009, SCEC Contribution #1296

The objective of this study is to measure the extent to which earthquake science was being used for earthquake loss mitigation by local-level governments in Orange County, California, as of 2003. A list of earthquake-science research products that have usefulness in mitigating earthquake losses may be compiled using (1) General Plan Guidelines issued by the State of California’s Office of Planning and Research, and (2) the Communication, Education, and Outreach Program of the Southern California Earthquake Center. In the context of local-level planning, the Safety Element chapter of California cities’ General Plans is the overarching document that contains text, graphics, and figures which together compose a set of programs, goals, and policies for the purpose of mitigating earthquake losses. By comparing the list of products to the content of Safety Elements, the extent and nature of the gap between science and policy, in this context, should be revealed. The study followed a descriptive line of empirical inquiry procedures by administering an enumerative survey upon a cross-section of one-group of archived Safety Element documents whose analyzed content was recorded in a tabular review format. A non-probability, purposive sample of thirty-four participants were selected for this study. Each participant represents one of the thirty-four official cities in Orange County, California, as of end of year 2003. The content of each participant’s Safety Element chapter was analyzed in two phases. The first phase determined which items on my list of earthquake-science research products were involved. The second phase extracted the programs, goals, and policies from the Safety Elements and then classified them according to emergent categorical schemes, which were enumerated in a descriptive, summary form. This study should (1) identify the general use of earthquake-science research as a group of products used by city planners, (2) enumerate the extent to which specific products are being used, and (3) summarize earthquake-loss-mitigation programs, goals, and policies that are maintained by Safety Elements.

Runnerstrom, E. E. (2009). Toward an Understanding of the Gap between Earthquake Science and Local Policy-Makers in Orange County, California (University of California, Irvine, Irvine).