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Scientists, government officials and the public can all help make societies more resilient to earthquakes and other natural hazards, says an editorial in Nature.

A significant number of deadly earthquakes occur on faults that are unknown or thought relatively safe — the faults leading to last year's earthquake in Sichuan province, China, for example, were not high on China's hazards list, yet the earthquake killed more than 70,000 people.

Preparing for earthquakes means developing a clear message about what is known about them, communicating this, and using a broad set of tools to make communities resilient, says the editorial.

Scientists must assess and effectively communicate their knowledge about earthquakes. Public officials must admit their mistakes and learn from them. The Chinese government must provide open and comprehensive data about what happened in Sichuan to help it, and other countries, save lives in future disasters.

The public are generally poor judges of their own safety says the editorial — they think they are safe until a disaster occurs. More public awareness of the need to prepare for disasters is needed. Japan's annual earthquake drill is a good example of how to do this.

Making societies more resilient to earthquakes will also help weather terrorist attacks, climate change and other threats.

Link to full article in Nature