Rain chances possible this week

How prepared are Oklahomans for earthquakes? Researchers say not so much

STILLWATER, Okla. - Dr. Alex Greer studies natural disasters, and he's seen the worst in the world - including the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

"I met a lady in Japan. She was probably 70 years old, and she had lost probably three members of her family in the tsunami. She was serving us tea,” said Greer, political science assistant professor. "The tea cups that she was serving us was the only thing she had left. She had been in a shelter for six months."

That spawned a career in studying the behavior effects after a natural disaster.

Since then, he's studied people impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Moore tornado in 2013.

Now, he's teaming up with Dr. Tristan Wu at OSU to also look at how prepared people are before a natural catastrophe.

"This is a large interruption to their lives. They'll never go back to what was normal. Every city is a new city after a natural disaster, but they can re-establish a sense of normal, and hopefully it's a better normal."

It's a typically stressful process for victims thrown into temporary homelessness and having to apply for aid.

"We see on average people move between three and nine times after a disaster before they can even get back home, so all of that stress plus filling out all of that paperwork, it just adds up for people,” Greer said.

It's a confusing process Oklahomans know all too well.

"Someone that's assigned to them to help them through the process, I think that would be a major step forward on progressing through recovery,” Greer said.

Their research shows Oklahomans are prepared for tornadoes but not earthquakes - something increasing exponentially in the state, according to their research.

"For earthquakes, we don't have those types of things. We don't have a disaster culture for earthquakes here,” said Wu, political science professor.

Wu believes adopting early warning systems seen in other countries can help residents better prepare for a quake.

Both hope their research will help disaster victims in the future.

"Maybe through what we find, we can make the process better for them, so that's what I'm trying to look at."

For more information about earthquake early warning systems, visit https://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/earlywarning/background.php.

And, for more information on the study by Greer and Wu, visit http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212420917302716?via%3Dihub.