The search for a life-saving earthquake emoji

Watch out! Japan’s alerts show a catfish, which causes quakes in myths.

Could a picture save your life? We have emoji for most disasters, but not earthquakes. Some scientists think that a new quake emoji would speed up reactions in a crisis, and even save lives.

What’s happening

There is currently no emoji for “earthquake”. A group of experts called #emojiquake want to change that. They are asking people to submit designs by July 14. Twitter users will choose a winner, which the experts will try to get included on phones. They believe that such an emoji could save lives.

Find out more

Earthquakes strike quickly, and are unpredictable. They often kill. A third of humans are at risk of experiencing one — more than for other natural disasters.

We have emoji for volcanoes, tornadoes, tsunami and cyclones. People often tweet them during an emergency. Pictures are faster to read than words, and can be understood by all.

The experts argue that a special emoji would help people communicate during a quake. They add that if everyone tweets the same emoji, scientists can easily work out which areas are affected by comparing where the tweets are coming from.

“The problem with an earthquake,” says one expert, “is it’s sort of hidden.” It is unclear what the emoji should show — hence the competition.

Can an emoji really save lives?

Some say…

Yes. According to one academic, emoji is “the fastest growing form of language in history”. Everyone understands it. When a quake is coming, you have to act fast. People in countries like Japan get alerts on their phones; if these alerts included an emoji, everyone — tourists included — would get the gist at once. #emojiquake is a genius idea.

Others think…

We have no actual evidence that emoji help people in emergencies. An earthquake one won’t make much of a difference. Quakes kill because buildings are too weak, aid teams are sent out too slowly, and people are not properly taught how to act in a crisis. Forget little pictures on phones: governments must work harder to protect their people.

You Decide

  1. Are emoji more expressive than words?


  1. Design an earthquake emoji. If you are really proud of it, ask your teacher about entering it into the competition!

Some People Say...

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Hard to predict. Scientists know where earthquakes happen, but they cannot really say when one will strike.
A third
According to the European Commission.
Huge waves, often caused by earthquakes.
Storms that involve heavy rain and violent winds.
One academic
An academic is a teacher or researcher at a university. In this case: Professor Vyv Evans of Bangor University.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.