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Waverly Person

Frequently Sought For Expert Commentary

When an earthquake occurs, however, it is often the media that get to Person first. He was not even out of bed on the morning of January 17, 1994, for example, when the ABC television news program Good Morning America called to ask his opinion about the deadly quake that had just shaken the San Fernando Valley in California. "I went straight for about seven hours after I got to work giving interviews to the media on where the earthquake was, what did I think about damage, how aftershocks might come and this kind of thing," he related in Emerge.

Person continued: "And then the rest of the night, it was live TV interviews, locally and nationally. Then I got home, got a couple of hours of sleep and was able to change clothes. I got back the next morning at 5:00 because I was going to be on [NBC's] Today show. So it was pretty hectic. That's what happens when you have a large earthquake in the United States." Although Person has witnessed many more devastating tremors, the January, 1994, earthquake in Northridge, California, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, was "one of the most talked about, most interviewed quakes I've ever been on in my entire career," he told CBB."I talked to everybody. You name them, I talked to them." When a 6.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed a survey reporting station in Washington state in 2001, Person told the Rocky Mountain News that "The phones here lit up like fireworks and lightning."

Person's nearly fifty years of experience as the bearer of bad news all came to call in 2004 when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Indonesia caused a huge tsunami that killed more than 275,000 people in the coastal areas of the Indian Ocean, ravaging huge portions of Indonesia, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Sri Lanka. The huge number of deaths prompted calls for better emergency warning systems to be put in place in the Indian Ocean.

In addition to giving interviews to U.S. newspaper, magazine, TV, and radio correspondents, when a major earthquake occurs, Person speaks to media representatives from around the world. He and his staff also field phone calls from panic-stricken citizens, anxious to know what to do and what to expect in the wake of a significant tremor. Even the mild quake that shook parts of the Midwest and Canada in June of 1987 was enough to tie up the NEIC's phone lines for three solid hours. "I had eight people here doing nothing but answering phones," Person recounted in Ebony. "We knew that the quake was not large enough to have killed thousands of people. But as far as those people in that area are concerned, they are being shaken by an earthquake and they want to know if they're going to have another."

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Jan Peck Biography - Personal to David Randall (1972–) Biography - PersonalWaverly Person Biography - Worked Hard To Achieve Success, Achieved Respect As Center Director, Frequently Sought For Expert Commentary