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What can a homeowner do if a company uses the Lava Flow Hazard Map for Hawai'i Island to set elevated insurance or mortgage rates?

An option is to contact the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

The USGS Lava-Flow Hazard Zone Map is meant to convey relative volcanic hazard rather than risk.

A volcanic hazard is a destructive event that can occur in a given area or location, such as a lava flow or a volcanic earthquake, along with the probability of the event's occurrence. It is important to be aware of and understand the hazard, but, in a practical sense, nothing can be done to reduce the hazard itself. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are beyond human control.

Risk is the hazard multiplied by the vulnerability (the proportion of some resource, like people or land likely to be affected if the event occurs) multiplied, in turn, by the value (lives or property threatened). In shorthand: Risk = Hazard x Vulnerability x Value.

Risk can be mitigated, meaning that people can take actions to reduce their risk to a particular hazard. Risk assessment and mitigation involve social scientists who have expertise in determining “value” and “vulnerability” as defined in the above formula.

A published study indicating the relative risk of lava inundation in Zones 1 and 2 is not available at this time, so inquiries or complaints about increased rates should go to the respective insurance or mortgage companies.

Learn more: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Lava-Flow Hazards

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