- © 2016 by the Seismological Society of America
The collection of earthquake testimonies (i.e., qualitative descriptions of felt shaking) is essential for macroseismic studies (i.e., studies gathering information on how strongly an earthquake was felt in different places), and when done rapidly and systematically, improves situational awareness and in turn can contribute to efficient emergency response. In this study, we present advances made in the collection of testimonies following earthquakes around the world using a thumbnail‐based questionnaire implemented on the European‐Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) smartphone app and its website compatible for mobile devices. In both instances, the questionnaire consists of a selection of thumbnails, each representing an intensity level of the European Macroseismic Scale 1998. We find that testimonies are collected faster, and in larger numbers, by way of thumbnail‐based questionnaires than by more traditional online questionnaires. Responses were received from all seismically active regions of our planet, suggesting that thumbnails overcome language barriers. We also observed that the app is not sufficient on its own, because the websites are the main source of testimonies when an earthquake strikes a region for the first time in a while; it is only for subsequent shocks that the app is widely used. Notably though, the speed of the collection of testimonies increases significantly when the app is used. We find that automated EMSC intensities as assigned by user‐specified thumbnails are, on average, well correlated with “Did You Feel It?” (DYFI) responses and with the three independently and manually derived macroseismic datasets, but there is a tendency for EMSC to be biased low with respect to DYFI at moderate and large intensities. We address this by proposing a simple adjustment that will be verified in future earthquakes.