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  • Stephanie Moore, Arizona State University

The Importance of Mapping in Earthquake Regions

Living in California has its benefits when it comes to weather and protection from natural disasters. Many types of natural disasters do not occur in the region but the one lingering threat that comes without warning is an earthquake. There are faults throughout the state but also throughout the world in regions known as “the ring of fire” or according the the Earthquake Glossary, “the Circum-Pacific belt, is the zone of earthquakes surrounding the Pacific Ocean about 90% of the world's earthquakes occur there”. The area includes the west coasts of North, Central and South America, the East Coasts and small island countries in Asia and the South Pacific as well as New Zealand. The State of California has a detailed fault map on their website and the U.S. Geological Survey also has a hazard map showing the areas around the world prone to Earthquakes.

In areas around California, we know that there is pretty extensive mapping and record keeping but some areas around the world are not so fortunate. The work of YouthMappers has played an essential role in the assistance of mapping roads, buildings, schools and hospitals in earthquake prone areas.

As a YouthMappers/USAID GeoCenter intern I’ve learned about the mapping in Nepal that was used as a guide after the big 2015 earthquake that helped guide the aid teams know where to send resources and search teams looking for people affected. OSM data was also used in the Haiti earthquake response. Many countries and rural regions like this do not have the resources needed to keep updated records like the ones needed to provide assistance after natural disasters so it’s important for the mapping community to continue to help by mapping and validating in areas in the ring of fire.

If you do a search of the term “earthquake” on the HOTOSM website, you’ll find a few pages of projects that are either in areas affected by earthquakes or are in danger of experiencing one and are looking for assistance in mapping for disaster preparedness. There are also countless cities and communities within the ring of fire that remain unmapped and unlisted as a specific project. Hosting a mapathon is a great way to contribute with a class or chapter but there are also numerous opportunities for individuals to help to contribute to mapping in these types of areas and providing a valuable type of aid, from anywhere in the world.

Sources California, State of. Fault Activity Map of California , . “Earthquake Glossary.” U.S. Geological Survey ,

Stephanie Moore is a student at Arizona State University, member of YouthMappers ASU, and recently participated in the 2019 Spring YouthMappers USAID GeoCenter Virtual Internship.

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