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7 Million Americans at Risk Due to Human-induced Earthquakes

U.S. Geological Survey map shows the potential for Americans to experience damage from natural or human-induced earthquakes in 2016. U.S. Geological Survey map shows the potential for Americans to experience damage from natural or human-induced earthquakes in 2016. (Photo: USGS)
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People in California aren't the only ones who should watch out for trembling ground. The U.S. Geological Survey published for the first time an earthquake hazard map covering both natural and human-induced quakes — and some of the spots may be a surprise.

Related: What's Causing the Earthquakes in Oklahoma?

Induced quakes are triggered by human activities, such as disposing of wastewater from oil and gas production operations. The six states facing the highest hazards from human-induced quakes are Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas. Most of these earthquakes are relatively small, in the range of magnitude 3.

“By including human-induced events, our assessment of earthquake hazards has significantly increased in parts of the U.S.,” said Mark Petersen, Chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, in a news release. “This research also shows that much more of the nation faces a significant chance of having damaging earthquakes over the next year, whether natural or human-induced.”

The report shows approximately 7 million people live in areas of the central and eastern U.S where induced earthquakes are possible.

Wastewater disposal is the primary cause for recent human-induced earthquake events, according to USGS. For the study, scientists looked at whether an earthquake occurred near a wastewater disposal well and whether the well was active at the time these earthquakes occurred.

This report is a one-year hazard assessment, based on recent seismic activity. Previous reports have included only natural earthquakes.

People living in areas of higher hazard should learn how to be prepared for earthquakes, advises the USGS.

Related: How to Prepare For an Earthquake

Here's what to keep in mind if your state is likely to have a quake.

Stock up on emergency supplies. These will come in handy for any type of disaster, whether you have to hunker down at home or evacuate. The kit should include first aid kit, flashlights, enough food, water, batteries and cash to last for three days and an NOAA weather radio.

Make an emergency plan with your family. If an earthquake happens while you’re all at work and school, discuss how you’ll find each other. Don't forget to include specific plans for your pet and any disabled family members.

If you're at home, know where to take cover. Ready.gov recommends you “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!” to prevent injuries. Note places in your home where you’ll be safer from falling debris during an earthquake, such as under tables or desks.

Know how to turn off the electricity, water and gas. This is important to practice before an emergency, in case pipes or wires are broken.

Consider earthquake insurance for your home. Minor earthquakes can create cracks in your home's foundation and elsewhere. Earthquake insurance is separate from traditional homeowners insurance and usually carries deductibles of 2 to 10 percent on the total value of the home.

Related: What to Do After an Earthquake

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