Frequently Asked Questions

Natural Hazards

The USGS monitors and conducts research on a wide range of natural hazards to help decision-makers prepare for and respond to hazard events that threaten life and property.

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Damage from South Napa Earthquake
Use our online earthquake catalog to search for past earthquakes in your region. Define your search area by drawing a rectangle on a map or by inputting data for a rectangle or circle. Go to our Earthquake Information by Region website and scroll down to find information about earthquakes in each state.
Devastation of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake
The USGS Earthquake Lists, Maps, and Statistics website has statistics about earthquakes in the United States and the world, including a list of the world's 20 largest recorded earthquakes.
Pacific Plate boundaries and relative motion
Earthquakes can strike any location at any time, but history shows they occur in the same general patterns year after year, principally in three large zones of the earth: The world's greatest earthquake belt, the circum-Pacific seismic belt, is found along the rim of the Pacific Ocean, where about 81 percent of our planet's largest earthquakes...
Sunset over South Florida WARC
Florida and North Dakota are the states with the fewest earthquakes. Antarctica has the least earthquakes of any continent, but small earthquakes can occur anywhere in the World. Our Earthquake Statistics has M3+ earthquake counts for each state beginning in 2010. Learn more: Earthquake Information by Region (scroll down for information by State/...
Damaged Monument Kathmandu, Nepal
Our Earthquake Statistics website has annual totals for worldwide earthquakes and U.S. earthquakes from 1990 to the near-present. Estimated deaths from those earthquakes are listed at the bottom of the charts. The website also has M3+ earthquake counts by state beginning in 2010.
Image: Debris Flow Damage in California
Wildland fires are inevitable in the western United States. Expansion of human development into forested areas has created a situation where wildfires can adversely affect lives and property, as can the flooding and landslides that occur in the aftermath of the fires. There is a need to develop tools and methods to identify and quantify the...
Image: Students Conduct Earthquake Preparedness Drill
ShakeOut GIF showing what to do in an earthquake if you are near a sturdy desk or table. (Public domain.) The Great ShakeOut earthquake drills are based on scenario earthquakes that could effect the area if they were to actually take place. Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills are an annual opportunity for people in homes, schools, and organizations...
Image: Damage from 2011 Virginia Earthquake
1) Severe earthquakes have occurred in the eastern U.S.: In November of 1755, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 6.0 and a maximum intensity of VIII occurred about 50 miles northeast of Boston, Massachusetts. Boston was heavily damaged. Other strong earthquakes recorded in the continental US were centered in southeastern Missouri near...
Image: Northridge, CA Earthquake Damage
The contents of your home may be damaged and can be dangerous: Shaking can make light fixtures fall, refrigerators and other large items move across the floor, and bookcases and television sets topple over. IDENTIFY: Look around your house for things that could fall or move. Ask yourself if your cupboard doors could fly open (allowing dishes to...
House damage in central Oklahoma from a magnitude 5.6 earthquake in 2011
WEAR STURDY SHOES to avoid injury from broken glass and debris. Expect aftershocks CHECK FOR INJURIES If a person is bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound, use clean gauze or cloth if available If a person is not breathing administer CPR DO NOT attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in further danger of injury COVER injured...
Tidal Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Tsunamis are large, potentially deadly and destructive sea waves, most of which are formed as a result of submarine earthquakes. They can also result from the eruption or collapse of island or coastal volcanoes and from giant landslides on marine margins. These landslides, in turn, are often triggered by earthquakes. Tsunamis can be generated on...
Image: Students Conduct Earthquake Preparedness Drill
The "Triangle of Life" is a misguided idea about the best location a person should try to occupy during an earthquake. Based on observations of an earthquake in Turkey, the idea doesn't apply to buildings constructed within the United States. Drop, cover, and hold under a table or desk is still the best recommendation, according to the American...