What is a Scenario?

An earthquake scenario is a planning tool that helps us understand earthquakes and plan for the future. A successful scenario tells the story of a defined earthquake and its specific impacts. It draws the reader in by incorporating familiar aspects of the community that they can readily recognize. It helps decision makers to visualize specific impacts that are based on currently accepted scientific and engineering knowledge.

scenarios are effective tools that can increase interest in and support for earthquake mitigation

View video: using scenarios to define the problem

View video: using scenarios to define the problem

An earthquake scenario:

  • helps a community understand its earthquake risk and possible risk reduction measure
  • is a planning tool that tells the story of a defined earthquake and its consequences–helps stakeholders to visualize specific physical, social, economic and environmental impacts
  • is a tool that can be used for response planning and exercises, mitigation and land use planning, as an education and awareness-raising tool, to promote business continuity, or for recovery planning and exercises.
  • is based on currently accepted scientific including social, economic and environmental sciences) and engineering knowledge.

a scenario can be as simple as a quick HAZUS run for a meeting of city officials to a multi-year complex process involving many stakeholders

View video: the ShakeOut exercise

View video: the ShakeOut exercise

The most elaborate scenario conducted to date is the ShakeOut exercise that was held in southern California in November 2008. Click here to read an overview of the exercise or watch the short video by clicking on picture to the right. While the scope and budget for this exercise is unusual, there are many excellent, low-cost ideas for involving communities in such a regionwide exercise.