Landslides – A Nationwide Danger

Landslides occur and can cause damage in all 50 States. Severe storms, earthquakes, volcanic activity, coastal wave attack, and wildfires can cause widespread slope instability. Landslide danger may be high even as emergency personnel are providing rescue and recovery services.

To address landslide hazards, several questions must be considered: Where and when will landslides occur? How big will the landslides be? How fast and how far will they move? What areas will the landslides affect or damage? How frequently do landslides occur in a given area?

Answers to these questions are needed to make accurate landslide hazard maps and forecasts of landslide occurrence, and to provide information on how to avoid or mitigate landslide impacts.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) develops methods to answer these questions to help protect U.S. communities from the dangers of landslides.

USGS Science Provides Solutions

The USGS Landslide Hazards Program strives to reduce loss of life and property from landslide hazards through improved understanding and effective mitigation. These goals are accomplished in three primary ways: (1) development of improved approaches for landslide hazard assessments; (2) post-disaster response; and (3) public information and outreach.

In response to requests by Federal or State governments, the USGS assesses landslide hazards and offers technical assistance and information for recovery

Public education and outreach on landslide hazard issues are performed through the USGS National Landslide Information Center, which maintains an informational Web site at, generates fact sheets and other educational literature, and responds to inquiries from the public.

A Collaborative Strategy

USGS landslide researchers have partnered with local emergency-management, land-use planning and decisionmaking agencies, Federal and State land management
agencies, State geological surveys, and universities.

These partnerships have been used to promote the use of hazard assessment approaches developed by the USGS; map and inventory landslides; perform hazards assessments; and monitor landslides in critical areas for urban growth, lifelines, and transportation.

For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the USGS are conducting a pilot project in southern California to predict when flash floods and debris flows might occur in areas recently burned by wildfire.

A National Outlook

The USGS has developed a comprehensive national strategy for addressing the widespread landslide hazards facing the Nation.

This strategy, available at, identifies nine major elements of a potential expanded national program for landslide mitigation: research; hazard mapping and assessments; real-time monitoring; loss assessment; information collection, interpretation, dissemination, and archiving; guidelines and training; public awareness and education; implementation of loss-reduction measures; and emergency preparedness, recovery, and response. The USGS helps the public, policymakers, and the emergency management community make informed decisions on how to prepare for and react to landslide
hazards and reduce losses from future landslides.

Information courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey