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Earthquake Disaster Assistance Team (EDAT)

What is EDAT?

Much of the Earth’s population lives under threat of geologic hazards, including shaking, landslides, liquefaction, and tsunami. The USGS and USAID Earthquake Disaster Assistance Team (EDAT) strives to assist foreign partners, upon their request, with seismic hazard identification and monitoring and to support them as they take the lead in mitigating these hazards in their respective countries. EDAT team members stand ready to address science and data collection activities including paleoseismology and ground rupture, tsunami source characterization, network seismology, geological engineering and ground failure, strong-motion instrumentation, geodesy, seismic hazard assessment, and education and outreach. Formed in 2009, EDAT was co-founded by the USGS and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (now the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA)).

EDAT works in the background with counterparts on issues they have identified as priorities for earthquake disaster risk reduction. EDAT deployments occur only after invitations from counterpart countries and upon approval from USGS and USAID. EDAT participates in both capacity-building and response activities.

What is EDAT’s Role?

crumbling house on grassy field
House destroyed by Palu earthquake-induced liquefaction. Note standing water which indicates a nearly surface-level water table that contributed to the widespread liquefaction. (Credit: Walter Mooney, USGS. Public domain.)

Capacity Building and Training

The Earthquake Disaster Assistance Team draws scientists from across the USGS and BHA to work on international capacity building and response activities. These scientists have diverse specialties and areas of expertise, including: paleoseismology and fault rupture, network seismology, geological engineering, seismic instrumentation, geodesy, seismic hazard assessment, remote sensing, landslides and liquefaction (ground failure), tsunami studies, and education and outreach.

Examples of EDAT Capacity-Building Projects (and Principal Investigator)

  • PAGER improvements and earthquake scenarios (David Wald)
    group of 8 people taking a selfie
    A lunch break with staff from the Seismology Division of the Myanmar Department of Meteorology and Hydrology during a workshop on earthquake focal mechanisms. (Credit: Emily Wolin, USGS. Public domain.)
    • PAGER stands for the Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response. It is an automated system that takes in seismic data from remote sensors in order to rapidly estimate earthquake shaking and the scope and impact of earthquakes around the world.
  • AftershockForecaster software development and trainings (Nicholas Van der Elst)
    • Over the course of this three-year project, the team developed open-source software to facilitate the issuing of aftershock forecasts and delivered this software to partner agencies around the world. They conducted intensive training workshops for science agencies. In all, over 250 people benefitted from training in earthquake and aftershock science, with over 160 receiving intensive hands-on training using the software.
  • Nepal trainings on probabilistic seismic hazard assessment and aftershock forecasting (Susan Hough)
    • USGS scientists have participated in and helped facilitate seminars and trainings on Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Analysis in Nepal with local counterparts. These workshops focused on understanding local capacities, emphasizing the need for a consortium-based approach to establish an ongoing PSHA program for Nepal, led by Nepali earthquake professionals.
  • Burma national seismic network (Susan Hough) 
    • Following an initial needs assessment undertaken in 2012, the USGS received support from USAID to upgrade the seismic network in Burma. 
  • Indonesia earthquake hazard technical assistance (Walter Mooney)
    • This technical assistance is focused on the improvement of earthquake monitoring and tsunami early warnings, including providing trainings in collaboration with the International Tsunami Information Center (ITIC of NOAA/UNESCO) and the NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC).
  • Ecuador technical assistance on earthquake response best practices (Harley Benz)
    large room with many people in a meeting
    Dominican geoscience and engineering professionals and students participate in a discussion with USGS scientists at workshop on earthquake geology and the Septentrional Fault held at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Credit: Steve DeLong, USGS. Public domain.)
    • This project provides counterparts in Ecuador with assistance from the USGS National Earthquake Information Center to coordinate seismic monitoring on potential large, damaging earthquakes, and to help with longer-term network operations.
  • Haiti and Dominican Republic family preparedness (Carol Prentice and Lindsay Davis)
    • GeoHazards International (GHI) is collaborating with USGS to research and produce sourcebooks of research‐based, locally relevant, local‐language family preparedness information for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and to carry out family disaster preparedness programs using their content.
  • Haiti technical assistance for earthquake monitoring (Susan Hough)
    • A technical assistance mission for earthquake risk reduction in Haiti, building on programming undertaken between 2010-2013 as part of the Earthquake Disaster Assistance Team response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. 
  • Dominican Republic paleoseismology training (Katherine Scharer
    • The purpose of this project is to build capacity in the Dominican Republic that can lead to reduction of risk from seismic hazard by training Dominican scientists, engineers, and geotechnical professionals in earthquake geology with a focus on the hazards associated with the Septentrional Fault.
  • Costa Rica app for earthquake early warning (Benjamin Brooks)
    • This project aims to develop and implement, a low-cost approach to earthquake early warning and tsunami early warning in Costa Rica using the built-in accelerometers and communication capability of smartphones, in conjunction with an accessory GNSS chip.
  • Albania consultation in response to November 2019 earthquake (Kishor Jaiswal
    • USGS scientists were invited to attend a symposium related to
      regional tectonics and their implication in the past and present seismic
      activity in Albania.

Rapid Response

Following a damaging earthquake, with support from USAID, USGS scientists may deploy immediately to the affected area following the most critical period of humanitarian response in order to support local counterparts as they assess continued seismic threats to their residents. The USGS maintains a core group of scientists with various expertise, as previously listed, who can deploy on short notice. Among these are scientists who may be assigned the role of lead coordinator and the primary point of contact with USAID/BHA, the USGS International Program office, the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, and various science centers within USGS. Each specific activity requires an invitation from the local geological or government agency requesting assistance, a short statement of work, and approval from USAID/BHA.

Image: USGS Rapid Response to Haiti
Vehicles crushed beneath the second story balcony of the Hotel D'Haiti located in Port-au-Prince. This entire hotel with more than 50 rooms was destroyed as a result of the magnitude-7 earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. (Credit: Walter Mooney, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.)

Examples of EDAT rapid response:


To coordinate with agencies outside of the USGS that may respond to earthquake disasters, the USGS maintains liaisons with other earthquake-related agencies and organizations. The USGS has a dedicated point of contact to the Global Earthquake Model Foundation, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) and its National Science Foundation-funded Learning from Earthquakes Program, and to the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Consortium for effectively engaging the academic seismology community and tapping the IRIS Rapid Array Mobilization Program, which maintains seismic instrumentation available for deployment following a significant earthquake. USGS maintains relationships with technical non-governmental organizations that may already be active in country. All USGS liaisons coordinate with the USAID/BHA Geoscience Advisors, who are USGS scientists that work directly with BHA staff.

view of harbor with coastal buildings and haze
Aerial view of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, looking southeast with the port in the foreground and main city residences and other buildings showing as white in the center. Many of the neighborhoods with the heaviest destruction from the M7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010 are included in this view. (Credit: Walter Mooney, USGS. Public domain.)

EDAT works closely with scientists involved in other geohazard capacity building and response activities, including the Landslide Disaster Assistance Team (LDAT) and the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP)." and linking to both the LDAT and VDAP webpages, respectively.

For our Counterparts

What does USGS do?

EDAT team members stand ready to assist counterparts with addressing a variety of scientific topics, including paleoseismology and fault rupture (training, assessments of recurrence history, mapping), network seismology (training, network analysis), geological engineering and ground failure (training and reconnaissance assessments), strong-motion instrumentation (site-response studies, damage evaluation, training), geodesy (training, network analysis/installation), seismic hazard assessment (training and evaluation), tsunami studies (training on tsunami processes, paleotsunami studies, inundation mapping, often in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and education and outreach. These capabilities are subject to USGS and USAID/BHA approval and availability of funds.

International Work Ensure Readiness at Home

2 people look at computer monitor
Ms. Pa Pa Tun and Dr. Susan Hough review an earthquake location in the Myanmar Department of Meteorology and Hydrology headquarters. (Credit: Emily Wolin, USGS. Public domain.)

EDAT strengthens the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program and the Nation's disaster risk reduction capabilities in numerous ways. By participating in foreign seismic capacity building and response:

  • USGS experts continually hone their skills, gaining the experience required to react to our next domestic earthquake and (or) tsunami.
  • Equipment is modified and improved to address new challenges encountered around the globe.
  • Close collaboration with international seismic observatories results in the development of best practices that serve as templates for improved observatory protocols at home.
  • Observations of seismic events provide insights that inform conceptual models of how earthquakes work, spark new research efforts, and spur improvements of equipment and forecasting methods that can then be applied in the United States.

Through EDAT, the USGS earns credibility, worldwide recognition, and otherwise unobtainable experience, observations, and data. USGS provides the technical experts to address seismic disaster risk reduction issues worldwide, but EDAT would be impossible without the infrastructure, personnel, and financial support provided by USAID/BHA. This unique program is a critical element of global geologic disaster risk reduction. In addition to EDAT, USGS and USAID/BHA also support the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) and the Landslide Disaster Assistance Team (LDAT).

Many residents of the United States and its territories are exposed to seismic hazards. Earthquakes such as the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes, the M7.9 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, the M9.2 1964 Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami, and many others serve as reminders of this reality. Understanding seismic hazards worldwide and collaborating with international scientists improves our nation's capabilities to understand potential threats and develop mitigation strategies that are effective in preventing disasters here at home.