Reporter 24 conducted a survey as part of the campaign on the preparedness of the authorities after the activation of the new seismic zone in Oltenia. We wanted to find out from the readers where they get their information, what they think about how decision-makers prepare for cataclysms and to what extent they fall prey to conspiracy theories.
Sociologist Alexandru Zodieru was invited to comment on the results of the study, which involved almost 50 people. He states that the data can be considered „above the minimum for statistical analysis”, with over 30 responses.
Most respondents (51.1%) say they know what they should do in the event of a major earthquake hitting Romania, while less than half (48.9%) say they do not.
Regarding the preparedness of the authorities in the event of an earthquake, most of the respondents (53.3%) believe that those who should make decisions are indifferent, while 40% believe that the authorities lack preparedness, with the rest responding positively.
The overwhelming majority of respondents (82.2%) feel that they would feel safer if they knew which buildings in their locality are at risk of collapse in the event of an earthquake. Only 17.8% gave the opposite answer.
In contrast, 66.7% of respondents believe that people can „create” earthquakes, and 33.3% believe that this is not possible.
Regarding the source of information on earthquakes, 64.4% say they rely on the internet, 22.2% say the press and only 8.9% say from the authorities. The rest of the respondents claim that their friends are the best source of information.
Sociologist: A majority believe, however, that there is a possibility that tectonic movements can be man-made
Sociologist Alexandru Zodieru points out that the research is a journalistic investigation using a sociological approach.
„A large majority of the respondents believe that state authorities are not prepared to respond to a major earthquake. 93% of them „preemptively” blame the institutions as being overwhelmed by situations that might occur.
82% of the participants in the survey stated that they would like to know which buildings are marked with seismic risk, although in the event of a major earthquake, this data may be subjective in relation to the degree of the tectonic movement”, points out Zodieru.
He also notes that although the question suggests the possibility of a conspiracy theory, a 66 percent majority still believes there is a possibility that tectonic movements could be man-made.
„The question warns of the possibility of unwanted informational influences such as fake news, but even so the conspiracists remain in the majority. The Internet, which can include online media, is the most knowledgeable in providing information in terms of earthquakes and civil protection. Authorities are mentioned by less than 10% of respondents”, according to Alexandru Zodieru.
The sociologist concludes by saying that the presence of the authorities in the media is important so that verified information reaches as many people as possible.
„The population has high expectations for the authorities to intervene and get involved as much as possible, people almost externalize their own responsibility in the face of a cataclysm. It is obvious that notifying people of the possibility of a cataclysm by the authorities, in a very dense and veiled information conglomerate of conspiracy theories, is difficult.
At the same time, it is important to have a permanent presence on the TV/radio and online media of a constant message from the authorities regarding people’s behaviour in case of a cataclysm and their preparation for emergency situations, until the state authorities intervene”, concludes Zodieru.
Alexandru Zodieru is general manager of Cult Market Research, part of the Cult Group, which includes three other entities, the most important of them being the Institute for Social and Political Studies (ISSP).
Unanswered questions after the Oltenia earthquake
The earthquake in Gorj County on 14 February has once again brought to the fore the failure of the authorities to provide clear and timely information to the population so as to avoid panic and hysteria.
By interacting with the authorities in the counties affected by the earthquake of 5.7 on the Richter scale, which occurred on 14 February 2023, we could see that they do not have a clear list of buildings that fall into a seismic risk class, they do not know who is responsible for checking and reinforcing them, and the responsibility is passed between the Prefecture, the Inspectorate for Emergency Situations, mayor’s offices and the State Building Inspectorate.
Moreover, the authorities are taking advantage of certain provisions of the law, which they interpret as they see fit, to avoid responding to media requests.
Such an attitude leaves room for conspiracy theories, fake news and leads to increased panic among the population. The earthquake on 14 February has been followed so far by more than 2,000 aftershocks, the most intense reaching around 4 on the Richter scale, so the state of alert and panic among people is still high.
Article supported by the SCIENCE+ project, run by Free Press For Eastern Europe, which aims to facilitate the creation of a unique network to share best practice in health and science journalism in six Central and Eastern European countries: Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.