It is well known that aftershocks produce more fatalities and damage than would be expected from earthquakes of the same magnitude; they generate shaking in areas where much of the building stock has already been damaged, and where poor decision-making by the population can have fatal consequences. They also represent a significant impediment to emergency response efforts. While we cannot reliably forecast individual mainshocks, the statistics and physical science of aftershocks and operational forecasting has developed rapidly and it is now possible to make actionable forecasts of the probability of both the location and the size, with full quantification of the uncertainties involved.
Correct community response to aftershocks reduces subsequent loss of life in earthquake-stricken areas but its encouragement is not a technical issue. Local response can be delayed or inhibited by social, cultural and political factors and effective, large-scale user engagement with appropriate information, so essential in emergency response, requires work on developing public awareness at scale, designing effective co-learning across multiple stakeholder groups, and building a deep understanding of the social and gender issues which might limit, or enable, user engagement. A communities of practice (CoP) analysis developed in two recent NERC funded projects2 analysed knowledge exchange between geoscientists and humanitarian practitioners and the barriers and enablers of the effective coproduction needs to be expanded and embeded more convincingly within the broader socio-political and cultural context that underpins and determines science-lay community interactions and engagement in hazard programmes. Advances in digital education and smart phone technology offer new possibilities in rapid communication of risk critical information and advice.