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This chapter presents the concept of multiple hazard mapping, describes the benefits of using multiple hazard maps relative to individual hazard maps, and explains the preparation and use of such maps.

When an area is exposed to more than one hazard, a multiple hazard map (MHM) helps the planning team to analyze all of them for vulnerability and risk. By facilitating the interpretation of hazard information, it increases the likelihood that the information will be used in the decision-making process. In either the planning of new development projects or the incorporation of hazard reduction techniques into existing developments, the MHM can play a role of great value.

In this chapter, the MHM discussed is primarily for use in an integrated development planning study.


The main purpose of MHM is to gather together in one map the different hazard-related information for a study area to convey a composite picture of the natural hazards of varying magnitude, frequency, and area of effect. A MHM may also be referred to as a "composite," "synthesized," and "overlay" hazard map. One area may suffer the presence of a number of natural hazards. (Figure 6-1 is a tabulation of natural phenomena that can be considered for presentation on such maps). Using individual maps to convey information on each hazard can be cumbersome and confusing for planners and decision-makers because of their number and their possible differences in area covered, scales, and detail.

Many natural hazards can be caused by the same natural event. The inducing or triggering mechanism which can interconnect several hazards can more easily be seen through the use of a MHM. Characteristics of the natural phenomenon and its trigger mechanisms are synthesized from different sources and placed on a single map.

Additionally, the effects and impact of a single hazard event, as in the case of volcanoes and earthquakes, include different types of impacts, each having different severities and each affecting different locations.

The MHM is an excellent tool to create an awareness in mitigating multiple hazards. It becomes a comprehensive analytical tool for assessing vulnerability and risk, especially when combined with the mapping of critical facilities as discussed in Chapter 7.

The adoption of a multiple hazard mitigation strategy also has several implications in emergency preparedness planning. For example, it provides a more equitable basis for allocating disaster planning funds; stimulates the use of more efficient, integrated emergency preparedness response and recovery procedures; and promotes the creation of cooperative agreements to involve all relevant agencies and interested groups: It must be emphasized that the MHM will not meet the site-specific and hazard-specific needs of project engineering design activities.

The effective use of natural hazard information to avoid damage or to reduce loss requires a considerable effort on the part of both the producers and the users of the information. Unless the scientific and engineering information is translated for the layman, the effective user community is limited to other scientists and engineers. If the users do not become proficient in interpreting and applying technical information, the information is likely to be misused or even neglected in the development planning process. Studies by Kockelman (1975, 1976, 1979) on the use of earth-science information by city, county, and regional planners and decision-makers in the San Francisco Bay region of the United States show that the most effective use of hazard information is achieved when maps clearly depict the likelihood of occurrence, location, and severity. Furthermore, hazard reduction was more likely when agencies had scientists or engineers on their staffs. Their skills permitted a broader use of the technical information, and the agencies were able to make interpretations of the information for their own purposes.



Tropical storms


Lava flows
Projectiles and
lateral blasts
Pyroclastic flows
Tephra (ashes, cinders, lapilli)


Coastal flooding
River floods
Storm surges

Other Geologic

Debris avalanches
Expansive soils
Submarine slides


Fault ruptures
Ground shaking
Lateral spreading


Urban conflagration


1. Translated Information
2. Sources and Compiling Information
3. Timing

A prerequisite to compiling individual hazards information onto one map is obtaining or creating a base map upon which to place this information. Characteristics and examples of such base maps are discussed in the next section, on map format. The base map is usually selected during the preliminary mission; the team needs only to select a scale appropriate to the study area. This initial map also may serve as an index to more detailed hazard maps. Several base maps at different scales may be used, depending upon the final study area or areas and the predominating scale of the individual hazard maps. The most detailed individual hazard map may be selected as the base if it provides adequate geographic orientation. The base map used for an MHM can be the same as that used for the critical facilities map described in Chapter 7.

1. Translated Information

Much hazard information will be in the form of scientific investigations into the process and prediction of a potentially hazardous event and observations of the impact of past events (Du Bois, 1985), such as volcano inventories and records of flood crest elevations. It is often in forms other than maps. This information, although a prerequisite to an MHM, is not readily understood by the layman. It must be "translated" for planners and decision-makers and placed on maps.

Successful translation must be in a format that a planning team can understand. But even more important, the information must be perceived as explaining a hazard that may adversely affect life, property, or socioeconomic activities. This can be accomplished by providing three elements-location, likelihood of occurrence (frequency or return period), and severity. A planner or decision-maker evaluating a specific land use, structure, or socioeconomic activity is not usually interested in a potential event whose (1) occurrence is not expected for a very long time, (2) location is not known, or (3) size or effect is not great. These elements vary with the phenomenon, for example:

- Coastal areas annually exposed to winds of specific velocity and storm surges of specific runups.

- Floodplains and floodways which will be impacted by specific velocities and water heights from rainfall duration and intensity having a fifty-year recurrence interval.

- Fault rupture zones, liquefiable geologic materials, and landslide-susceptible areas having significant vertical or horizontal displacement by a postulated earthquake of a specific magnitude with a likelihood of occurring within the next one- or two-hundred-year period.


- A more concise focus on the effects and impacts of natural phenomena on a particular area is possible during early planning stages.

- Many hazards and the trigger mechanism of each can be viewed at the same time. Common reduction or mitigation techniques can be recommended for the same portion of the study area. Inadequate or missing hazard information (location, severity, or frequency) can be more easily identified.

- A study area or a sub-area can be expanded, reduced, or deleted. Study areas can be divided into sub-areas requiring more information, additional assessments, or specific reduction techniques.

- More realistic evaluation of risks to new development are possible.

- Appropriate hazard reduction techniques can be more easily built into the investment project formulation.

- Selection of appropriate land uses can become more rational.

Figure 6-2 illustrates the types of information needed. All three elements may not be available for all hazards. In compiling an MHM it is just as important to know what is missing. More information can be sought or prepared, but at least those development and investment decisions being based on less than adequate information should be noted.

It is also important to distinguish between a hazard that can be defined as not present versus one whose presence cannot be properly evaluated because of limited information. For example, a conservative approach to development because of "inadequate" hazard information can be counterproductive over time. If the planner's or decision-maker's response to an "exaggerated" potential hazard is to avoid the area or recommend expensive resistive design, a credibility problem will occur when a "realistic" potential hazard is discovered.

2. Sources and Compiling Information

There is a vast array of sources of hazard information, including various public and private libraries, offices and reference centers at international, national, regional, and community levels. These entities may be concerned with infrastructure, community facilities, economic development, resource exploration, land use planning, emergency preparedness, geotechnical studies, disaster response, and many other activities. Sometimes these sources coordinate their compiling of hazard information, but it cannot always be expected. Many of the users of development planning information are also compilers of natural hazard information. Tinsley and Hollander (1984) have compiled a list of governmental earth-science agencies and selected major international organizations whose functions are similar to those of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Some hazard information can be extracted or inferred from photographic, topographic, geologic, hydrologic, climatologic, and soils information already prepared for settled regions. Chapter 10 of this primer, on landslide hazard mapping, suggests local authorities responsible for public works, forestry, and agricultural activities as being valuable sources of information because of their familiarity with past problems.

The Organization of American States (1969) in its casebook on physical resource investigation for environmental development cites suggestions for obtaining information on hazards. These include existing resource surveys; aerial photography; personal reconnaissance; exploratory, reconnaissance, semi-detailed, and detailed surveys; aerial photography, orthophotos, and photogrammetric mapping; geologic surveys; flood studies; and soil erosion surveys.

Hazard information may also be obtained from remote sensing data (see Chapter 4). Various sources of information on floods, desertification, earthquakes, landslides, and other natural hazards are given in Appendix A and Chapters 8 through 12.


- Location
- Likelihood of occurrence
- Severity











Geologic formations

Geologic formations









Wind velocity







Rate of rise



Recurrence interval

Earthquake recurrence

Historical occurrence

Historical return periods

Slip rates

Flood of record

Historical seismicity

Rainfall patterns

Design event

Bank cutting rates

Compiling information from these various sources includes four steps: collecting, evaluating, selecting, and combining, as described in the box below.

The overview of natural hazards by Bender (1986) for the St. Kitts and Nevis project provides an example of a preliminary evaluation of available hazard information based on readily available information. The Santiago-Mira study (OAS, 1984a) demonstrates the importance of getting a "quick picture of the region's development problems. This involved sending an 'advance man' to the study area to determine the principal issues and identify experienced local technicians."

Chapter 10 includes recommendations which are applicable to all hazards, not only to landslides: initial consultation with technical specialists, identification of hazards early in the planning process, and an initial review of the type and content of available information. Because of the cost and time in compiling information to make an MHM, consideration should be given to collaborating with other users.

3. Timing

The collection of general hazard information began years ago as part of development assistance agency programs. Within current OAS project procedures, the collection of specific hazard information begins when a member country makes a formal request for technical assistance and continues through the integrated development planning process (see Chapter 1). Sending a two-person team to the field for two weeks for a quick data collection effort represents a relatively low-cost method for initiating collection of specific natural hazard information (OAS, 1984a).


- Collecting base maps and appropriate hazard information from the various sources identified in this book

- Evaluating the uniformity, accuracy, and completeness of such information-areal coverage, detail, content, elements (likelihood, location, and severity), format, and symbols.

- Selecting the most appropriate base map and scale to be used, hazards to be shown, and symbols to portray those hazards.

- Combining the selected individual hazard information onto the MHM in an accurate, clear, and convenient way.

During the preliminary mission, hazard information collection can be accomplished by:

- Undertaking field travel and "overflights" of the study area.
- Contacting local officials and community leaders.
- Maintaining contact with appropriate national planning officers.
- "Brainstorming" with national counterparts.
- Using experienced staff members or consultants to get an overview.
- Determining the availability of existing data.

During subsequent study stages, the general criteria for data collection should emphasize:

- Striving for the same level of detail.
- Answering specific questions about development problems.
- Using national institutions as sources.
- Drawing on local practice experience.-
- Identifying project ideas (or mitigation techniques).
- Using local research institutions and universities.
- Keeping descriptions to a minimum and emphasizing analysis.


1. Base Map
2. Scale and Coverage
3. Hazards to be Shown
4. Types of Symbols

Maps are the most effective way to convey actual and relative location. Maps can be simply defined as flat geographic portrayals of information through the use of symbols. A good introduction to types and content of maps, data overlays and extractions, and land use and land cover mapping may be seen in the Coastal Mapping Handbook (Ellis, 1978). Such approaches help the MHM not just convey that natural hazards exist, but also to note their location, severity, and likelihood of occurrence in an accurate, clear, and convenient way.

The area covered, scale, detail, hazards shown, and format of a MHM can range widely:

- World: 1:30,000,000
- Continent: 1:5,000,000, 1:2,000,000
- Region: 1:500,000, 1:200,000, 1:96,000, 1:50,000
- Community or settlement: 1:24,000, 1:12,000
- Building sites: 1:10,000, 1:2,500

It has been said that the usefulness of a map is in its omissions. Except for its orientation information (roads, rivers, coastlines, place names) the map should be as uncluttered and stripped down as possible. Natural hazards are the information to be emphasized.

Discussion of the important aspects of MHM follows: base map, scale and coverage, hazards to be shown, and types of symbols to be used. References are made to nine examples (Figures 6-3 through 6-11) which may appear deceptively simple. Two are in color, one is computer-generated, one shows only two hazards while others show many, some stand alone while others are accompanied by extensive explanations.

1. Base Map

Creating a base map from scratch is a difficult and time-consuming task; therefore, it is desirable to use an existing map or controlled photograph as a base. An adequate base map must be planimetric, that is, a representation of information on a plane in true geographic relationship and with measurable horizontal distances; and must have sufficient geographic reference information to orient the user to the location of the hazard. The top of a map is usually oriented to the north, but not always. Hence, a "north arrow" on each map sheet is mandatory.

Discussion of geographic referencing systems such as longitude and latitude, state plane coordinate systems, or Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid systems is beyond the scope of this chapter. Many different projections are suitable and an indication of the map projection used as well as an insert map showing the location of the study area is very helpful.

Figures 6-3 through 6-11 are all planimetric maps, and each has sufficient reference information for the scale and area covered. For example, the map of the world (Figure 6-3) shows national boundaries and major cities; other maps show highways and rivers; some even show local street names and building site boundaries (Figure 6-11).

Sometimes a base map is available that shows hypsography, that is, elevations of land above sea level (Figure 6-9). These maps are sometimes called "topographic" or "contour line" maps. The elevation and contour information can be interpreted to help present the location and severity of flood, landslide, fault rupture, hurricane, and other potential hazards. Cadastral (property ownership boundary) maps can be excellent base maps, although they often have a scale larger than is needed for regional development planning. Controlled aerial photographs, photo maps, radar images, and satellite photography can also be used for base maps.

2. Scale and Coverage

Map scale is the measure of reduction in size from the actual environment to that portrayed on the map. The scale can be expressed as a ratio between the map distance and the actual distance. For example, the scale on Figure 6-5 is 1:500,000 which means that one centimeter on the map equals 500,000 centimeters (or 5,000 meters or 5 kilometers) on the ground. Large-scale maps show less detail for a large area.

Larger scales are more common for regional development planning (1:500,000 through 1:50,000; Figures 6-5 through 6-9), and community development plans (1:24,000 through 1:12,000; Figures 6-10 and 6-11). The scale selected will depend upon the map's purpose. There are no best scales, only more appropriate ones to coincide with planning requirements.

The scale used for an MHM is dependent upon not only the hazard information to be shown but also upon the scale of the base map. If a choice of scales is available, then the following factors become important in making the selection:

- Number of hazards to be shown.
- Hazard elements to be shown.
- Range of relative severity of hazards to be shown.
- Area to be covered.
- Use of the map in conjunction with other planning documents.
- Function of the map; for example, whether it is to be an index or detail map.

Often the individual hazard maps to be used are at different scales. This may require an enlargement or reduction to the scale of the base map selected. Use of controlled photographic or computer mapping methods makes this process easy and accurate.

3. Hazards to be Shown

Any number of hazards can be shown, depending upon scale, symbols, and coverage chosen. On a one-sheet topographic base map (Figure 6-9), only flood and landslide hazards are shown. On the 5-sheet map (Figure 6-10), several hazards and thirteen zones of geologic materials are shown. This dense hazard information is then supplemented by two sheets of explanations. To avoid overcrowding, hazards can be combined manually (Figure 6-8), or by computer (Figure 6-7), and into regulatory zones (see Chapter 7).

4. Types of Symbols

Everything shown on an MHM as well as the base map is a symbol representing reality. Symbols are selected for their legibility and clarity and/or map production characteristics; for example, artistic (Figure 6-3), numerical (Figures 6-4 and 6-10), convention (Figures 6-5 and 6-6), computer printout (Figure 6-7) innovation (Figure 6-8), resemblance to flooding (Figure 6-9), or ease of regulations (Figure 6-11).

Some symbols may convey a sense of the hazard (Figure 6-5); others are totally abstract (coastal hazards in Figure 6-8). Some symbols represent derived combinations of hazards (geologic problem index in Figure 6-7) or hazards combined for ease of reading (see Chapter 7).

Likelihood of occurrence or frequency can be shown by isolines to represent the number of thunderstorm days per year (Figure 6-3) or to separate areas of landslide frequency (Figure 6-9). Areas have been used to show maximum seismic intensity in 50 years and the number of tropical storms and cyclones per year (Figure 6-3), and flooding in 100 years (Figure 6-9).

Location can be shown through the use of basic geometric symbols-a point, a line, or an area. For example, points have been used to show tornadoes and volcanoes (Figure 6-3); lines have been used to show preferred tracks of tropical storms (Figure 6-3), fault rupture (Figures 6-10 and 6-11), or tsunamis (Figure 6-3); and areas have been used to show flooding, landslides, or erosion zones (Figures 6-5 and 6-6).

Figure 6-3 - World map of natural hazards

Source: Munchener Ruckversicherungs-Gesellschaft. World Map of Natural Hazards, scale 1:30,000,000. (Munich, Federal Republic of Germany, 1978). Permission to publish.

Figure 6-4 - Maximum Earthquake map of South America

Source: Adapted from Regional Seismological Center for South America (CERESIS). Maximum Intensity Map of South America. (Santiago, Chile: CERESIS, 1985).

Figure 6-5 - Natural Hazards map of the Paraguyan Chaco

Source: Adapted from OEA. Proyecto de Desarrollo Urbano Paraguayo, Mapa de Riesgos Naturales del Chaco Paraguayo, Area de Programa 4-C (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1985).

Severity can be shown as points, although lines are more often used, for example, to show equal numbers of winter gales (Figure 6-3), relative severity of coastal hazards (Figure 6-11) or coastal erosion (Figure 6-10). Areas have been used to indicate severity, such as maximum seismic intensity (Figure 6-4), or a combination of hazards (Figure 6-7). In addition, areas can be used to show requirements or recommendations for further study, for example, site investigations to determine fault rupture location (Figure 6-11) or geotechnical investigations prior to development (see Chapter 7).

Innumerable variations of points, lines, and areas are available to the maker of an MHM. Lines can be solid, long-dashed, short-dashed, or composed of points and question marks as conventionally used by geologists in mapping inferred faults (see Figure 6-10 and Chapter 7). Areas can be shaded (Figures 6-4 and 6-11), patterned (Figures 6-5,6-6, and 6-7) colored (Figure 6-3 and 6-4) or patterned and colored (see Chapter 7). Examples of the various representations of points, lines, and areas may be seen in Figure 6-11. A thorough discussion of graphic design is found in Robinson, Sale, and Morrison (1978).


1. Cross section of Effects
2. Photographs of Damage
3. Atlas of Hazards
4. Plan for Reducing Hazards
5. Analyses of Land Capability
6. Single Event with Multiple Hazards
7. Series of Strip Maps
8. Photo Maps
9. Geographic Information Systems
10. Information Processed by Computer

The foregoing discussions and examples have addressed one form of the MHM, mainly the single-sheet planimetric map combining several hazards with relatively simple explanations. This form of MHM may not always be the most suitable. Other forms of the multiple hazards information may provide increased coverage, greater detail, or more hazards. Sometimes information helpful to making a development or investment decision is already available, for example, cost estimates, graphic evidence of damage, or hazard reduction suggestions. Information in a form processed or capable of being processed by computer may be available. Examples of some of these other forms follow.

1. Cross section of Effects

One form for showing severity is by means of a cross section through an affected area. However, to be useful to planners and decision-makers, it must be accompanied by a planimetric map showing the area! extent of the hazard. For example, the geologic effects of fault rupture, ground shaking, tsunami flooding, liquefaction, and landsliding were predicted for a recurrence of a magnitude 6.5 earthquake. The hazards are shown on regional scale map sheets (1:125,000) and the severity is indicated by a cross section (Figure 6-12) at a horizontal scale of 1:150,000 in Borcherdt (1975).

2. Photographs of Damage

The use of photographs of actual damage is an excellent technique for communicating a general awareness of the effects of hazards. They can also be used to illustrate the specific effects of hazardous phenomena. For example, Hays (1981) uses photographs of buildings seriously damaged by flooding, hurricanes, landslides, and subsidence that occurred throughout the United States. Ziony (1985) uses photographs of structures such as hospitals, highway overpasses, electric power stations, and dams that failed or were seriously damaged by various earthquake effects-ground shaking, fault rupture, liquefaction, landslides, and tsunamis. Steinbrugge (1982) uses numerous photographs of damaged buildings, failed structures, and disrupted building use caused by earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Photographs of actual damage caused by a specific type of event can be keyed to an MHM to show where similar damage has occurred.

3. Atlas of Hazards

A presentation of several hazards in an atlas form provides greater opportunity for discussions, diagrams, photographs, recommendations, and references. For example, geologic and hydrologic hazards caused by seismic, atmospheric, or volcanic phenomena are mapped at scales of approximately 1:20,000,000 or larger. The maps are accompanied by diagrams of the processes, discussions of loss trends, photographs of damage, and suggested reduction techniques in the report by Hays (1981).

4. Plan for Reducing Hazards

Sometimes multiple hazard information is in the form of a hazard reduction plan which includes information on individual hazards. For example, the nature, magnitude, and costs of ground shaking, landslides, flooding, erosion, expansive soils, fault rupture, volcano, tsunami, and subsidence hazards are discussed in a report by Alfors and others (1973) for an entire state. Maps of each hazard at a scale of 1:5,000,000 are accompanied by loss-reduction recommendations which include mapping of the hazards and research into their processes.

Figure 6-6 - Landslide and flood hazard map for Jubones, Republic of Ecuador

Source: Adapted from OEA. Plan Hidráulico del Jubones, República del Ecuador, Vol. Ill, Mapa 3-A12. (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1984).

Figure 6-7 - Computer-Generated map summarizing several hydrologic, seismic, and other geological hazards - Geologic problems index (GPI)

Source: Adapted from Santa Barbara County Planning Department. Seismic Safety and Safety Element. (Santa Barbara, California: Santa Barbara County Planning Department, 1979).

Figure 6-8 Coastal hazard map for Saint Lucia

Source: Adapted from OAS. Saint Lucia Coastal Hazard Map. (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1984).

Figure 6-9 Natural Hazards map for the Republic of Honduras


The area prone to floods represents approximately 100-year event, that is, in a given year there is a one percent probability that this event will occur. The information was based on Landsat data (MSS), orthophotomaps (scale 1:10,000) and field observations. Certain zones within the area which are not prone to floods are not delimited because the 20m contour interval does not permit the identification of the high zones in the coastal plain.


The areas of frequent versus infrequent landslide occurrence are delimited by isolines of points where the landslides cover one percent of the surface. Areas with less than one percent of coverage are designated "infrequent," and areas with more than one percent of coverage are designated "frecuente."

Source: Adapted from OEA. Proyecto de Desarrollo, Islas de Bahía-Atlántida, República de Honduras, Mapa de Riesgos Naturales. (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1985)

Figure 6-10 - Geotechnical hazard synthesis map

Legend: The explanation for this map is complex, combining information on geologic processes, such as faulting, landsliding, coastal erosion, and liquefaction, with information on geologic materials, shown by numbers on the map. The material units are further subdivided by both seismic and engineering characteristics. For example, areas designated "2b" are underlain by alluvial fan deposits ranging in coarseness from silt to gravel, have poor to fair slope stability, moderate liquefaction potential, good to fair stability in terms of the intensity of ground shaking during a 7.5-8.3 in earthquake, and have good foundation properties.

Source: Adapted from San Mateo County Planning Department and Leighton and Associates. Geotechnical Hazards Synthesis Map (San Mateo County, California: San Mateo Planning Department and Leighton and Associates, 1974).









Epicenter site

Landfall measure

Row site

Landslide site





Rood elevation

Direction of slide

Direction of lava flow, ash, or gas


Seismic intensity

Storm surge

Rood-prone area

Landslide-prone area

Coverage of ash, gas or lava flow

5. Analyses of Land Capability

The additional costs required to reduce a hazard (and thus overcome a constraint to development) can be crucial information for a lender or donor. For example, a method of evaluating land-use proposals by estimating the "social" costs that are attributed to hydrologic, seismic, and other geologic characteristics is described by Lard et al (1979) and is accompanied by composite maps for a demonstration area (1:125,000). Costs are computed from a consideration of reduction techniques, probability of future damage, or lost opportunities. Cost is expressed in current dollars, and therefore provides a common basis for evaluating and comparing different land uses and different constraints and resources. Constraints to development include ground shaking, fault rupture, tsunamis, seiches, landslides, fault creep, avalanches, stream flooding, subsidence, liquefaction, expansive soils, erosion, and volcanic activity. Resources include minerals, construction materials, energy, water, soil, and scientific and educational sites.

6. Single Event with Multiple Hazards

It should be remembered that the effects of a single event, as in the case of volcanoes and earthquakes, can include various hazards, each having different severities and each affecting different locations. The consideration of one event, then, should result in the assessment and mapping of several hazards. Hazard zones for lava flows, ash clouds, lateral blasts, and mudflows are mapped at 1:62,5000 for a potential volcanic eruption by Miller (1980).

7. Series of Strip Maps

Sometimes a physiographic province-uplands, lowlands, or coastlands-is used as the basis for mapping, and various hazards within that province are assessed. For example, eleven hundred miles of Pacific Ocean coastline are mapped (1:50,000 to 1:100,000) and divided into three hazard zones reflecting various combinations of coastal erosion-cliff retreats, slumps, bluff collapses, landslides, rockfalls, seawall breaches, wave-thrown debris, earth flows, tsunamis, and storm surges - by Griggs and Savoy (1985). (See Chapter 7.)

8. Photo Maps

Orthophotos, stereoscopic photographs, and photographs with some topographic information are invaluable to an experienced interpreter. These maps can be used not only as base maps but to accurately locate potential hazards. For example, floodplain boundaries during high water, recent storm damage paths, fault rupture zones, or past landslides can be seen on photographs. This information sometimes can be interpreted to obtain location and severity.

9. Geographic Information Systems

The nature and capability of geographic information systems (GIS) provides an excellent basis for processing and presenting information in a map form (Bender et al., 1989). Natural hazards can be the information that is processed and presented. For example, liquefaction potential, relative land surface stability during earthquakes, 100-and 500-year flood zones, and potential surface rupture were entered into a GIS from original data at a scale of 1:24,000 by Alexander et al. (1987) to demonstrate the use of digital mapping technology for reducing natural hazards. (See Chapter 7)


Legend: Shaded area indicates a zone where site investigations are required because of an active or potentially active fault. Letters indicate specific hazards that need to be investigated and evaluated: Dr, area of high potential for ground displacement; Ds, area of high potential for earthquake-induced landslide; E/F, areas of low to moderate potential for any geologic hazard.

Source: Adapted from Santa Clara County Department of Land Development Engineering and Surveying. (San Jose, California: Santa Clara County Department of Land Development Engineering and Surveying, 1977).


Legend: The severity of each earthquake effect is indicated qualitatively by thickness of underlining and quantified to the extent permitted by the current state of the art for seismic zonation on a regional scale (not shown). The severity of the predicted earthquake effects generally depend on the type of underlying geologic material.

Source: Borcherdt, R.D. (ed.). Studies for Seismic Zonation of the San Francisco Bay Region, U.S. Geological Survey. Professional Paper 941-A. (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1975).


Legend: The white areas and lighter patterns within the computer-analysis area boundary indicate low problem ratings. The darker areas indicate moderate problem ratings. No high problem areas are included in the area shown.

Source: Adapted from Santa Barbara County Planning Department. Seismic Safety and Safety Elements. (Santa Barbara, California: Santa Barbara County Planning Department, 1979).

10. Information Processed by Computer

Computer mapping techniques are discussed in Chapters, if accurate information on hazards (location, severity, and likelihood of occurrence) at an appropriate scale is available, its processing by computers can be another invaluable tool. For example, ten hydrologic, seismic, and other geologic hazards were evaluated and rated according to their relative severity. The areal extent and severity of the hazards were transferred to two-hectare (five-acre) grid base maps, and the ratings for individual hazards were encoded to produce computerized maps (1:96,000). Each hazard evaluated was given one of three ratings-high, moderate, or none to low (Figure 6-13). The Santa Barbara County (California) Planning Department (1979) devised a system for rating the hazards for a given area on both an individual and a collective basis-information that then could be processed by computer.

The resulting geologic problem index (GPI) values were obtained by multiplying each hazard by a weighting factor that took into account the seriousness of the hazard, the difficulty of alleviating it, and the frequency of its occurrence. The GPI was calculated for each two-hectare cell in the computer-analysis areas and then assigned to the appropriate severity category and displayed on a computer-produced map (Figure 6-7). These computer GPI maps thus reflect a summation of the ratings delineated on the individual hazard maps.


1. Credibility
2. Likelihood, Location, and Severity
3. Accuracy versus Precision
4. Scale
5. Abuse
6. Synthesis versus Detail
7. Use of Caveats

This chapter extends only to examples of MHM; it does not address the limitations of the individual hazard maps or other hazard information transferred onto the MHM. The following discussions are directed not only to MHM users but to MHM makers for three reasons: (1) makers are users of the individual hazard maps or other information and must be just as aware of their limitations, (2) makers must be aware of the numerous opportunities for misinterpretation or misuse that users will make of their product, and (3) makers must attempt to provide caveats on the face of the MHM.

It must be emphasized that all the hazard information shown on the MHM, and also the base map information, are merely symbols-some conventional, others abstract, and some innovative. Users must carefully read the explanations (sometimes called legends), all caveats, and any supplemental text accompanying a map. The MHM maker is a key person and should leave a track (or record) for the MHM user, for example, sources of information used, scales enlarged or reduced, and limitations of the individual hazard information.

1. Credibility

It must be emphasized that the information shown on an MHM is only one factor that the planner or decision-maker will be considering. The information must be clear, convenient, and not just accurate but perceived as accurate. For example, Chapter 10 includes a note that "reliability may be questioned" when a landslide hazard map at a scale of 1:50,000 was based on a slope steepness map at a scale of 1:250,000. The location, severity, and likelihood of occurrence of each hazard must be given or, if unknown, clearly stated as such.

It should be remembered that the location, design, and operation of future critical facilities and the strengthening, abandonment, and operation of existing critical facilities will be affected by a consideration of the information shown on the MHM.

2. Likelihood, Location, and Severity

Because of the geographic nature of maps, the location requirement is met, but this is not necessarily so with regard to severity and likelihood of occurrence. The user must not assume that because severity and likelihood are given (in Figure 6-3) for seismic and windstorm events they are also given for tsunamis and volcanoes; they are not.

The likelihood, location, and severity elements of certain natural hazards can be easily affected by human activities. For example, DeGraff (1985) notes that it "is entirely possible to... cause a major failure to occur in a moderate hazard zone. Likewise, it is possible to significantly disturb a site within a high or extreme zone without causing a landslide."

Zones with different levels of hazard severity-low, moderate, or high-represent relative, not absolute, hazards. In addition, such levels are not predictive, but rather indicate a relative susceptibility to the hazard occurring. Chapter 10 notes that landslide "susceptibility" only identifies hazardous areas, not "when" the landslide might occur.

3. Accuracy versus Precision

A prerequisite for the locational accuracy of hazard information is the accuracy of the base map selected. The hazard information available and transferred to an MHM may be accurate, but the level of precision varies greatly. This is not necessarily because of scale or resolution, but because of the number of the field investigations, lack of information, type of experiments, and knowledge of the processes involved. For example, the three coastal zone severity levels shown in Figure 6-8 for earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, strong winds, and landslides vary considerably when the historical basis is examined.

Another example is the location of the seismic intensity zone boundaries shown on Figure 6-4. According to Steinbrugge (1982), some observers assign the intensity as the maximum at the location, while others assign an average. Obviously, this leads to variations in location of the boundaries.

A third example is the use of an isoline or an isopleth to indicate likelihood or frequency. Chapter 10 points out that such a map is not a substitute for indicating potential hazard. Sometimes a high frequency of past landslides indicates a greater probability of future landslides; at other times it may indicate a lower probability of future landslides because an area has stabilized.

4. Scale

Obviously, the scale selected controls the size of the area and the amount of information that can be shown. However, resolution (or accuracy of location) is also affected. For example, if a small scale map (1:1,000,000) using a 1/millimeter-wide line symbol (for fault rupture, storm path, or boundary between hazard zones) is enlarged ten times (1:100,000), the line symbol becomes one centimeter wide. Similarly, reduction of point and line symbols may result in their de-emphasis or even disappearance.

The MHM maker should assume that at some time the map will be enlarged or reduced. Map titles and explanations are usually unaffected by enlargements or reductions, but not the literal and numerical scales. Literal scales (one millimeter equals one hundred thousand meters) and numerical scales (1:100,000) remain accurate only for the original map. Therefore, a graphic scale must be placed on each map.

Spherical surfaces when portrayed on a planimetric map are only accurate at the contact of the plane with the actual sphere surface; various cartographic projection techniques are used to reduce the distortion. The projection technique used can be given or variable graphic scales can be used to alert users (Figure 6-3). Depending upon the scale and accuracy of the hazard information, this distortion may not be crucial, particularly if the base map has sufficient geographic information to locate the hazards.

5. Abuse

Reality is usually difficult to perceive; this difficulty is increased when maps are used. If a map is treated as reality, it becomes easy to view the hazards in impersonal terms. The magnitude of the hazards is dwarfed, people are invisible, critical facilities and other information may look like a board game.

When planners and decision-makers treat a map as mere symbols and disregard the physical reality it represents, the results can be disastrous. Development planners or investors, for example, may be tempted to locate infrastructures needed for economic development along a line that looks the straightest and most convenient on the map. Such a route may lie within a fault-rupture zone. A dot symbol representing a town or a specific number of people conveys nothing about the town's economic base or the peoples' characteristics-age, schooling, skills, gender, or income sources. The map way is not always the best way; its limitations must be appreciated.

Examples of the misuse of maps by vertical and horizontal distortion, density of symbols, contrasting colors, scales, or the use of symbols and colors which have suggestive, connotative powers beyond their denotative role are discussed by Muehrcke (1978).

6. Synthesis versus Detail

Filling an MHM with the symbols from several individual hazard maps may give the impression of a more thorough study, but, of course, this is not true. Simplified multiple hazard maps only create an awareness of what information exists, and (even more important) what information is missing. An MHM cannot substitute for detailed studies and site-specific investigations. For example, the landslide and flood hazards map (1:200,000) for the Jubones River Basin in Ecuador draws attention to the hazards that will affect the irrigation system. It cannot be considered sufficient detail for project planning, but rather it indicates where large-scale (1:25,000 to 1:2,500) technical studies are needed.

7. Use of Caveats

Caveats concerning the limitations of MHM should preferably be placed on the map but also can be included in the text accompanying the map. Methods used, assumptions made, or other factors concerning the individual hazard maps used to prepare the MHM can also be shown. Examples of caveats that might be found on a map follow:

- The relative swelling-pressure potential of geologic materials is intended for use as a guide; it cannot and should not supplant detailed field study and laboratory investigations of swelling pressures at specific sites.

- The relevance of the hazard information varies according to date, quality, and scale of the aerial photographs used for photo interpretation and the type and amount of field investigations.

- Landslide deposits smaller than 500 feet (150 m) in the longest dimension are not shown because they are too small to be clearly identified on the photographs or clearly portrayed on the topographic base map.

- The age of a relatively well known volcanic event is based on a range of radiocarbon dates, stratigraphic position, soil-profile development, ring counts on trees, or other methods of approximation. Relatively poorly known events can be approximated by comparing their stratigraphic position with the stratigraphic position of well dated events.

- Some landslide hazard zones are suitable only for regional planning purposes. They serve as a guide to whether landslides will pose a problem for a development project and identify locations needing remedial measures. The zones depicted are not intended, nor suitable, for evaluating landslide hazard for a specific site.

- Inundation boundaries drawn on the maps by interpolating between the mudflow lateral limits at adjacent cross-sections using the topographic contours report are not a prediction that the debris dam will fail or that a mudflow flood will result if the blockage fails.

- The scale of the map may prohibit the illustration of sufficient detail to allow use of the map for individual site studies. Evaluation of the potential for subsidence of geologic materials at individual sites should be performed by an engineering specialist.

- General studies of liquefaction potential are not a substitute for site-specific evaluations. The maps are small scale and indicate general areas where susceptible materials are likely to be present.

- These maps are approximations; they do, however, provide a regional guide to those areas where liquefaction should be considered a potential hazard and where special investigations may be needed.

- The earthquake magnitude used is considered to be the maximum event that can be generated in an area, yet no speculation is made concerning the likelihood of the consequences should the evaluated event occur.

- Not all active faults can be identified; those faults active at depth because of known seismic activity may be so poorly defined at the surface that including them in a surface-rupture hazard zone is impractical.


Multiple hazard maps are an important tool in the integrated development planning process. When combined with the critical facilities map discussed in Chapter 7, they become a key determinant in locating and funding new development. Failure to consider all of the natural hazards in the development planning process and to provide for their reduction will result eventually in the loss of lives, bodily injuries, property damage, critical facility failures, and disruption of important economic activities. Depending upon the size of the event, its location, and its effects, the actual impact of the hazard can be catastrophic and disastrous.

A recent guidebook by the OAS Department of Regional Development and Environment (1987b) clearly restates the issue:

Conflicts between natural hazards and development activities. result from a confrontation between hazardous natural events and human activity. So-called "natural disasters" occur because we have not paid sufficient attention to natural hazardous phenomena. Indeed, the term "natural disaster" is misleading for this reason: it places the blame on nature when, in fact, the blame belongs to those who decided that projects be implemented under circumstances that jeopardize the very objectives that the development activities were designed to meet.

The emphasis of the integrated development planning process is on the development of natural resources, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, industry, human settlements, and social services (OAS, 1984a). It emphasizes the collection and assessment of information on natural hazards to reduce their adverse impact on that development. It is believed that if the hazards are assessed and appropriate reduction techniques are incorporated into each stage of the integrated development planning process, social and economic disasters caused by natural hazards can be avoided or substantially reduced.

Equally important is the attitude of those national, regional, and community scientists, planners, engineers, and decision-makers involved in the collection and assessment of hazard information for new development. Many of them are key people with responsibilities for existing development. Their use of hazard information for new development will be enhanced by their interest in using the information to meet their responsibilities in sustaining existing development.

One final reiteration: the credibility, accuracy, and content of an MHM is no greater than the individual hazard information from which the MHM was compiled. Any limitations are merely transferred from the individual hazard information to the MHM.


** Alexander, R.H., et al. Applying Digital Cartographic and Geographic Information Systems Technology and Products to the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program: Proceedings of a Workshop on "Earthquake Hazards along the Wasatch Front, Utah," Open-File Report 87-154 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1987), pp. 100-146.

Alfors, J.T., Burnett, J.L, and Gay, T.E., Jr. "Urban Geology, Master Plan for California, the Nature, Magnitude, and Costs of Geologic Hazards in California and Recommendations for Their Mitigation" in California Division of Mines and Geology Bulletin 198 (Sacramento, California, 1973).

** Bender, S.O. St. Kitts and Nevis Forestry Development and Resource Management Planning Project: Report on Natural Hazards Assessment and Settlement Development Planning in Saint Kitts and Nevis (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1986).

* - Natural Hazard Risk Assessment and Disaster Mitigation Pilot Project in Latin America and the Caribbean Basin (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1984).

Blair, M.L. "Planning for Flood-loss Reduction in the Napa Valley" in A.O. Waananen, J.T. Limerinos, W.J. Kockelman, W.E. Spangle, and M.L. Blair, Flood-prone Areas and Land-use Planning-Selected Examples from the San Francisco Bay Region, California, Professional Paper 942 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1977), pp. 46-65.

Blair, M.L, and Spangle, W.E. Seismic Safety and Land-use Planning-Selected Examples from California, Professional Paper 941-B (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1979).

** Borcherdt, R.D. (ed.). Studies for Seismic Zonation of the San Francisco Bay Region, Professional Paper 941-A (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1975).

* Brown, R.D., Jr., and Kockelman, W.J. Geologic Principles for Prudent Land-use: A Decisionmaker's Guide for the San Francisco Bay Region, California, Professional Paper 946 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1983).

De Graff, J.V. Landslide Hazard on St. Lucia, West Indies (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1985).

** Du Bois, R. A Natural Hazards Assessment of the Coastal Area of Saint Lucia, West Indies (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1985).

* Ellis, M.Y. (ed.). Coastal Mapping Handbook (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Geological Survey and Office of Coastal Zone Management, 1978).

* Griggs, G., and Savoy, L. (eds.). Living With the California Coast (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1985).

* Hays, W.W. Facing Geologic and Hydrologic Hazards, Earth-science Considerations, Professional Paper 1240-B (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1981).

* Kockelman, W.J. "Some Techniques for Reducing Landslide Hazards" in Bulletin of the Association of Engineering Geologists, vol. 23, no. 1 (1986).

* - "Using Earth-science Information for Earthquake-hazard Reduction" in J.I. Ziony (ed.), Evaluating Earthquake Hazards in the Los Angeles Region-An Earth-science Perspective, Professional Paper 1360 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1985).

- Reducing Losses from Earthquakes Through Personal Preparedness, Open-File Report 84-765 (Menlo Park, California: U.S. Geological Survey, 1984).

- Use of U.S. Geological Survey Earth-science Products by Selected Regional Agencies in the San Francisco Bay Region, California, Open-File Report 79-221 (Menlo Park, California: U.S. Geological Survey, 1979).

- "Flood-loss Prevention and Reduction Measures" in A.O. Waananen, et al Flood-prone Areas and Land-use Planning-Selected Examples from the San Francisco Bay Region, California, Professional Paper 942 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1977), pp. 23-30.

- Use of U.S. Geological Survey Earth-science Products by County Planning Agencies in the San Francisco Bay Region, California, Open-File Report 76-547 (Menlo Park, California: U.S. Geological Survey, 1976).

- Use of U.S. Geological Survey Earth-science Products by City Planning Agencies in the San Francisco Bay Region, California, Open-File Report 75-276 (Menlo Park, California: U.S. Geological Survey, 1975).

** Kockelman, W.J., and Brabb, E.E. "Examples of Seismic Zonation in the San Francisco Bay Region" in E.E. Brabb (ed.), Progress on Seismic Zonation in the San Francisco Bay Region, Circular 807 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1979).

** Laird, R.T., et al Quantitative Land-capability Analysis, Professional Paper 945 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1979).

Miller, C.D. Potential Hazards from Future Eruptions in the Vicinity of Mount Shasta Volcano, Northern California, 3 plates, Bulletin 1503 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1980).

** Muehrcke, P.C. Map Use: Reading, Analysis, and Interpretation (Madison, Wisconsin: J.P. Publications, 1978).

Münchener Ruckversicherungs-Gesellschaft. World Map of Natural Hazards, scale 1:30,000,000 (Munich, 1978).

National Research Council. Confronting Natural Disasters: An International Decade for Natural Hazard Reduction (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1987).

* - Multiple Hazard Mitigation: Report of Workshop on Mitigation Strategies for Communities Prone to Multiple Natural Hazards (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1983).

* Organization of American States, Department of Regional Development. Course on the Use of Natural Hazards Information in the Preparation of Investment Projects, vol. 1, 15 annexes (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1987a).

- Minimum Conflict: Guidelines for Planning the Use of American Humid Tropic Environments (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1987b).

** - Natural Hazards Map of the Paraguayan Chaco, Program Area 4-C scale 1:500,00 (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1985).

** - Proyecto de Desarrollo, República de Honduras, Riesgos Naturales, Map scale 1:50,000 (Washington, D.C.: Organización de los Estados Americanos, 1985).

* - Integrated Regional Development Planning: Guidelines and Case Studies from OAS Experience (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1984a).

** - Saint Lucia Coastal Hazard Map, Prepared with the Collaboration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries, Cooperatives and Labour of the Government of Saint Lucia, scale 1:50,000 (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1984b).

** - Plan Hidráulico del Jubones, República del Ecuador, vol. 3 (Washington, D.C.: Organización de los Estados Americanos, 1984c).

* Physical Resource Investigations for Economic Development: A Casebook of OAS Field Experience in Latin America (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1969).

** Regional Seismological Center for South America (CERESIS). Maximum Intensity Map of South America, scale 1:5,000,000 (Lima: Regional Seismological Center for South America, 1985).

** Robinson, A.H., Sale, R.D., and Morrison, J.L Elements of Cartography, 4th ed. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1978).

Santa Barbara County Planning Department. Seismic Safety and Safety Elements (Santa Barbara, California, 1979).

Santa Clara County Planning Department. Public Safety Map no. 1 (San Jose, California, 1973).

San Mateo County Planning Department. Seismic and Safety Elements of the General Plan, vols. 1 and 2 (Redwood City, California, 1976).

* Steinbrugge, K.L. Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis (New York: Skandia American Group, 1982).

** Thompson, M.M. Maps for America, 2nd ed.: Cartographic Products of the U.S. Geological Survey and Others (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1981).

Tinsley, E.J., and Hollander, J.P. Worldwide Directory of National Earth-science Agencies and Related International Organizations, Circular 934 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1984).

** United Nations, Office of the Disaster Relief Coordinator. Disaster Mitigation: A Manual for Planners, Policy Makers, and Communities, 5 annexes (final draft) (Geneva: United Nations, 1988).

* - Natural Disasters and Vulnerability Analysis: Report of Expert Group Meeting (9-12 July 1979) (Geneva: UNDRO, 1980).

U.S. Office of Coastal Zone Management. Natural Hazard Management in Coastal Areas (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, 1976).

Vlasic, T.C., and Spangle, W.E. "Use of Slope-stability Information in Land-use Planning" in T.H. Nilsen, et al. Relative Slope Stability and Land-use Planning in the San Francisco Bay Region, California, Professional Paper 944 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1979).

* Ziony, J.I. (ed.). Evaluating Earthquake Hazards in the Los Angeles Region: An Earth-science Perspective, Professional Paper 1360 (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1985).

* Key reference.
** Key reference specifically for multiple hazard mapping.

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