Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

Yellow circle image representing hazards.While nature sustains human life, it can also be dangerous. Natural hazards, moreover, recognize no human boundaries. A volcanic eruption in Iceland can affect air travel around the globe. An earthquake on one side of an ocean can have deadly consequences in the form of a tsunami on the other side. Every year, natural hazards threaten lives and livelihoods, resulting in deaths and billions of dollars in damage. Understanding these forces that can affect everybody on the planet is one of the great scientific requirements of today.

The U.S. Department of the Interior is uniquely equipped to fulfill this requirement. Through a number of programs relating to earthquakes, droughts, floods, landslides, volcanoes and wildfire, the Department provides alerts and warnings of natural hazards and helps communities prepare for the worst. The Department is not an emergency response organization, but works hand in hand with emergency responders and counterpart organizations to provide scientific information to be used by on-site decision makers with the goal of helping to save lives and alleviate economic impact.

The scale and reach of these hazards -- often straddling international boundaries and having effects felt far around the world -- requires the Department to work with foreign partners. Interior applies lessons learned from domestic natural disasters and provides assistance around the world to help protect communities and save lives. Thus, lessons learned overseas have application in the backyards of many Americans. The sharing of lessons-learned and scientific techniques, help U.S. scientists better understand the natural forces that can disrupt societies and harm communities around the world and at home.

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