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What We Do - Earthquake Hazards Program

To provide and apply relevant earthquake science information and knowledge for reducing deaths, injuries, and property damage from earthquakes through understanding of their characteristics and effects and by providing the information and knowledge needed to mitigate these losses.

Mission Statement

The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is part of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The USGS role in NEHRP is to provide Earth sciences information and products for earthquake loss reduction. The goals of the USGS' Earthquake Hazards Program are:

  1. Improve earthquake hazard identification and risk assessment methods and their use;
  2. Maintain and improve comprehensive earthquake monitoring in the United States with focus on "real-time" systems in urban areas;
  3. Improve the understanding of earthquakes occurrence and their effects and consequences.

The USGS Earthquake Hazards Program also provides Research Grants , which fund external cooperators through a competitive, peer-reviewed proposal process. Participants include State and local governments, the academic community, and the private sector. Priorities for both the internal and external programs are guided by the Earthquake Hazards Program's annual science planning. Program Announcements are posted through the website.

Program Overview

This web site is sponsored by the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, as part of our effort to provide and apply relevant earthquake science information and knowledge to reduce deaths, injuries, and property damage from earthquakes. The Earthquake Hazards Program is part of the USGS Natural Hazards Mission Area, and is the USGS component the multi-agency National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), established by Congress in 1977. The USGS Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) was established by Congress as a NEHRP facility.

The USGS participates in the NEHRP with:

Peter Haeussler measuring offset snowpack caused by the M7.9 Denali, Alaska earthquake on November 3, 2002.
Peter Haeussler measuring offset snowpack caused by the M7.9 Denali, Alaska earthquake on November 3, 2002. (Public Domain)

Earthquakes pose significant risk to more than 143 million Americans. The USGS is the only Federal agency with responsibility for recording and reporting earthquake activity nationwide, and maintains the National Seismic Hazard Model. Citizens, emergency responders, and engineers rely on the USGS for accurate and timely information on where an earthquake occurred, how much the ground shook in different locations, the expected economic and human impacts, and what the likelihood is of future significant ground shaking.

The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year, although many go undetected because they occur in remote areas or have very small magnitudes. The USGS now locates about 50 earthquakes each day; 20,000 a year. The USGS is working to improve its earthquake monitoring and reporting capabilities through the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), which is now about 40% completed. Full implementation of ANSS will result in 7,100 new instruments installed in the ground and in structures in high-risk urban areas, as well as a national backbone of modern seismic instruments covering the entire Nation. When completed, the ANSS will provide emergency response personnel with real-time information on the intensity and distribution of ground shaking that can be used to guide earthquake disaster response efforts. Similarly, information on building shaking will equip engineers with the data they need to improve future building designs to better withstand earthquake shaking.

A new initiative of the Program is to provide earthquake “early warnings” in California, Oregon and Washington—and eventually in other high-risk areas of the country. The USGS “ShakeAlert™” production prototype system is being built with state and university partners for robust, reliable operations. Currently, selected early adopters are developing and deploying pilot applications that allow protective actions to be taken, triggered by ShakeAlert™ warnings in areas with sufficient coverage. The system does not yet support public warnings but those will be generated when the system is completed.

USGS Research Grants

In addition to activities performed by USGS staff, expertise in earthquake studies that exist outside the federal government is applied through a substantial program of grants, cooperative agreements and/or contracts with universities, state, regional and local government agencies, and private industry. The USGS invites research proposals to develop information, knowledge and methods that will assist in achieving the goals of the Earthquake Hazards Program.