What is the USGS doing to mitigate and respond to earthquake hazards?

The U.S. Geological Survey performs the following functions related to earthquake hazard mitigation:

  • Receives, analyzes, maintains, and distributes data on earthquake activity worldwide. Satellites link our National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado to a network of seismograph stations. These stations, located throughout the world, are maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey, State geological surveys, universities, research institutions, and foreign governments.
  • Provides rapid notification of earthquake events to civil defense and government officials in the affected area, and to the public through the news media.
  • Produces regional assessments of earthquake hazards in conjunction with State and local governments. This information is used by: local planners and building officials in setting appropriate building and retrofitting standards in an area government and civil defense officials in planning for disaster recovery professionals conducting detailed site assessments researchers engaged in basic and applied research.
  • Engages in basic research to learn more about the nature of earthquake activity.
  • Provides education on earthquake hazards and safety to the public by publishing and distributing literature, and through a variety of other outreach efforts.

Related Content

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How do I get earthquake hazard maps for locations outside of the U.S.?

We know of no current "zone" designations for sites outside of the United States. For locations outside the United States for which seismic design is required for military facilities, there exists a standard based on probabilistic spectral ordinates in the manner of the International Building Code and are declared to reflect the 2015 version of...

How are engineers working to make roads and buildings safer?

Earthquake engineers are working to make roads and buildings safer in the event of a major earthquakes. This includes both improving the design of new buildings and bridges as well as strengthening older units to incorporate the latest advances in seismic and structural engineering. The Federal Emergency Management Agency plays a central role in...

Can the National Seismic Hazard Maps be used as an earthquake forecast tool for the near future?

Not really. The USGS Seismic Hazard Maps website and the Unified Hazard Tool (for building custom maps) are designed to display the probability of different events that might occur in a several-year to several-decade period. The model bases all probability estimates on the average rate of earthquakes over long periods of time. As you shorten the...

What is the probability that an earthquake is a foreshock to a larger earthquake?

Worldwide the probability that an earthquake will be followed within 3 days by a large earthquake nearby is somewhere just over 6%. In California, that probability is about 6%. This means that there is about a 94% chance that any earthquake will NOT be a foreshock. In California, about half of the biggest earthquakes were preceded by foreshocks;...

What is the difference between earthquake early warning, earthquake forecasts, earthquake probabilities, and earthquake prediction?

The USGS uses these four terms to refer to four different things . Early warning is a notification that is issued after an earthquake starts. Probabilities and forecasts are comparable to climate probabilities and weather forecasts, while predictions are more like statements of when, where, and how large, which is not yet possible for earthquakes...

What is the probability that an earthquake will occur in the Los Angeles Area? In the San Francisco Bay area?  

Los Angeles area: Within the next 30 years the probability is: 60% that an earthquake measuring magnitude 6.7 46% that an earthquake measuring magnitude 7 31% that an earthquake measuring magnitude 7.5 will occur in the Los Angeles region. San Francisco Bay area: Within the next 30 years the probability is: 72% that an earthquake measuring...

How do I decide whether or not to get earthquake insurance?

You should consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to get earthquake insurance: proximity to active earthquake faults seismic history of the region (frequency of earthquakes) time since last earthquake building construction (type of building and foundation) architectural layout materials used quality of workmanship extent to...

How do earthquakes affect buildings?

Ground shaking is the primary cause of earthquake damage to man-made structures. Many factors influence the strength of earthquake shaking at a site including the earthquake's magnitude, the site's proximity to the fault, the local geology, and the soil type. More than 250 structures throughout the United States have been outfitted with seismic...

What is the likelihood of a large earthquake at location X?  Is it safe to go to X since they've been having a lot of earthquakes lately?

The National Seismic Hazards Mapping project provides an online Web tool for determining the probability of a large earthquake within 50 kilometers (~31 miles) of a specific location in the United States over a certain time period. The calculation is based on the latest available information from seismic hazard data. However, asking if it's safe...

How will my house hold up in an earthquake? Can the USGS send someone out to evaluate my property?

Published maps will only provide generalized, uninterpreted information about specific areas. Every property consists of a unique combination of geologic and structural factors that must be considered to determine what might happen to a house during an earthquake. Therefore, an individual site study is necessary. Geologic factors include: type of...

What are the earthquake hazards/risks where I live?

Determining your risk with regard to earthquakes, or more precisely shaking from earthquakes, isn't as simple as finding the nearest fault. The chances of experiencing shaking from an earthquake and/or having property damage is dependent on many different factors. The National Hazard Maps use all available data to estimate the chances of shaking (...

What is seismic hazard? What is a seismic hazard map? How are they made? How are they used? Why are there different maps, and which one should I use?

Seismic hazard is the hazard associated with potential earthquakes in a particular area, and a seismic hazard map shows the relative hazards in different areas. The maps are made by considering what we currently know about: Past faults and earthquakes The behavior of seismic waves as they travel through different parts of the U.S. crust The near-...
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Date published: December 11, 2019

USGS provides update for the National Seismic Hazard Model

USGS experts recently released a study that incorporates the latest earthquake science findings into an update of the National Seismic Hazard Model for the “lower-48” United States.  Read the full report here:  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/8755293019878199

Date published: April 24, 2018

East vs West Coast Earthquakes

Why was an earthquake in Virginia felt at more than twice the distance than a similar-sized earthquake in California? The answer is one that many people may not realize. Earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains can cause noticeable ground shaking at much farther distances than comparably-sized earthquakes in the West.

Date published: June 26, 2014

New Audiences, New Products for the National Seismic Hazard Maps

New Audiences, New Products for the National Seismic Hazard Maps

Date published: January 23, 2012

A 100-year-long History of Earthquakes and Seismic Monitoring in Hawaii

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s 1912–2012 Centennial—100 Years of Tracking Eruptions and Earthquakes

HAWAI‘I ISLAND, Hawaii —The history of earthquakes and seismic monitoring in Hawai‘i during the past century will be the topic of a presentation at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Thursday, January 26, at 7:00 p.m. 

Date published: April 21, 2008

Earthquake Hazard Maps Show How the Nation Shakes with Quakes

Friday's magnitude-5.2 earthquake in southern Illinois is a reminder that earthquakes are a national hazard.

Date published: October 29, 2002

Protecting the Public From Earthquake Hazards - Advanced National Seismic System Comes to Memphis

October marks a new milestone in the installation of modern seismic stations in seismically active urban areas across the country. These cities include Memphis, San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Anchorage, and Reno.

Date published: January 22, 2001

New USGS Map Will Improve Earthquake Hazards Assessment in the Bay Area

A new geologic map of surficial deposits in the nine-county San Francisco Bay region that can be used to evaluate earthquake hazards has been released in digital form by the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park.

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September 27, 2018

PubTalk 9/2018 - Hayward Earthquake

Title: The 150th Anniversary of the Damaging 1868 Hayward Earthquake: Why It Matters and How We Can Prepare for Its Repeat

  • The Hayward Fault in the heart of the Bay Area is one of the most urbanized faults in the US.
  • Studies of the fault reveal that it has produced 12 large earthquakes in the past 2000 years spaced 100-220 years apart.
  • There
January 25, 2018

PubTalk 1/2018 — ShakeAlert: Path to West Coast EQ Early Warning

Title: ShakeAlert: The Path to West Coast Earthquake Early Warning ... how a few seconds can save lives and property

  • The ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system will begin limited operations this year.
  • Alerts could save lives and properties but several challenges remain.
  • With millions at risk, why isn't full public alerting happening yet?
Earthquake Road Damage
April 14, 2017

Earthquake Road Damage

Photographs showing examples of types of damage to lifelines and infrastructure expected to occur along the Hayward Fault in the San Francisco Bay region, California, in an earthquake like the magnitude-7 mainshock modeled in the HayWired Scenario.

USGS Forecast for Ground Shaking Intensity from Natural and Induced Earthquakes in 2017
February 28, 2017

USGS Forecast for Ground Shaking Intensity from Earthquakes in 2017

USGS map displaying intensity of potential ground shaking from natural and human-induced earthquakes. There is a small chance (one percent) that ground shaking intensity will occur at this level or higher. There is a greater chance (99 percent) that ground shaking will be lower than what is displayed in these maps.

September 25, 2014

PubTalk 8/2014 — Ground Shaking in '89 Loma Prieta Quake: 25 yrs later

by Brad Aagaard, USGS Research Geophysicist


  • What factors controlled the variability in ground shaking in the earthquake?
  • Will the ground shaking in future earthquakes display similar patterns?
  • Hear about the advances made in recording ground shaking over the past 25 years.
  • Learn how USGS uses this information
building damaged by an earthquake
December 31, 2011

Earthquake-damaged building

Building damanged by the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Image: Installing Antenna and Solar Panel for Seismic Station
February 18, 2009

Installing Antenna and Solar Panel for Seismic Station

With funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory recently upgraded its seismic monitoring network.  Here, HVO staff, assisted by an HVO volunteer, installs the solar panel and antenna for one of the upgraded seismic stations on Kīlauea.

Image: Northridge, CA Earthquake Damage
January 1, 1994

Northridge, CA Earthquake Damage

Collection of USGS still images taken after the January 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake highlighting the damage to buildings and infrastructure.

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Image: Northridge, CA Earthquake Damage
January 1, 1994

Northridge, CA Earthquake Damage

Collection of USGS still images taken after the January 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake highlighting the damage to buildings and infrastructure.

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Ground view of collapsed building and burned area, Beach and Divisadero Sts., Marina District.
December 31, 1989

Marina District, San Francisco, after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

Ground view of collapsed building and burned area at Beach and Divisadero Streets, Marina District, San Francisco, following the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. At 5:04:15 p.m. (PDT), the magnitude 6.9 (moment magnitude; surface-wave magnitude, 7.1) earthquake severely shook the San Francisco and Monterey Bay regions. The epicenter was located at 37.04° N.

Global Seismographic Network illustration

Global Seismographic Network

Global Seismographic Network

Attribution: Natural Hazards