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US Response Report

For the purposes of this report, a museum will be defined, per Article 2 paragraph 1 of the Statutes of the International Council of Museums as:

"a non-profit making, permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, and open to the public which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of people and their environment."

(a) The above definition of a museum shall be applied without limitation arising from the nature of the governing body, the territorial character, the functional structure or the orientation of the collections of the institution concerned.
(b) In addition to institutions designated as `museums' the following qualify as museums for the purposes of this definition:
(i) natural, archaeological and ethnographic monuments and sites of a museum nature that acquire, conserve and communicate material evidence of people and their environment;
(ii) institutions holding collections of and displaying live specimens of plants and animals, such as botanical and zoological gardens, aquaria and vivaria;
(iii) science centres and planetaria;
(iv) conservation institutes and exhibition galleries permanently maintained by libraries and archive centres;
(v) nature reserves;
(vi) international or national or regional or local museum organizations, ministries or departments or public agencies responsible for museums as per the definition given under this article;
(vii) non-profit institutions or organizations undertaking research, education, training, documentation and other activities relating to museums and museology;
(viii) such other institutions as the Executive Council, after seeking the advice of the Advisory Committee, considers as having some or all of the characteristics of a museum, or as supporting museums and professional museum workers through museological research, education or training.

The United States of America, located on North America between Canada and Mexico, is the third largest country in area in the world, behind Russia and Canada. The United States' total area is 3,717,796 sq.mi (9,629,091 sq. km). The land area is 3,536,278 sq.mi (9,158,960 sq.km). The total water area is 181,518 sq.mi (470,131 sq.km); inland waters are 78,937 sq.mi, coastal waters are 42,528 sq.mi, and the Great Lakes are 60,052 sq.mi. The United States is about one-half the size of Russia; about three-tenths the size of Africa; about one-half the size of South America (or slightly larger than Brazil); slightly larger than China; or about two and one-half times the size of Western Europe. The US shares borders with Canada, Mexico, and Cuba (29 km at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, which is leased by the US and thus remains part of Cuba).

The climate of the United States is diverse. The climate is mostly temperate; however, it is tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the great plains west of the Mississippi River, and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest. The terrain is varied as well, with a vast central plain, mountains in west, hills and low mountains in east; rugged mountains and broad river valleys in Alaska; and rugged, volcanic topography in Hawaii. The lowest elevation point in the United States is in Death Valley, California (86 m. below sea level), while the highest is Mount McKinley, Alaska (6,194 m).

Natural resources found in the United States include: coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, and timber.

Natural hazards include volcanoes and earthquake activity around Pacific Basin; hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts; tornadoes in the midwest and southeast; mud slides in California; forest fires in the west; flooding; and permafrost in northern Alaska.

The United States is the third highest populated country in the world. Its 1998 population was 270.3 million, ranking the country only behind China and India (Indonesia ranks fourth, Brazil fifth). It's annual rate of growth is 1%. 138.3 million residents are female, 132.0 million are male. 25.8% of population are under 18 years of age, 12.7% are 65 years old and older. The United States is composed of many racial groups: 82.5% of residents are white, 12.7 % are black, 11.9% are Hispanic, 3.9% are Asian and Pacific Islander, and 9% American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut. The population density is 77 people per square mile. The population is distributed throughout the country as follows:

Northeast 19.1%
Midwest 23.3%
South 35.3%
West 22.3%

The US has no official language; however, the predominant languages of the United States are English and Spanish (which is spoken by a sizable minority). The United States has no official religion. Fifty-six percent of US residents are Protestant, 28% are Roman Catholic, 2% are Jewish, 4% are 'other,' and 10% have no religious affiliation. The literacy rate (defined as people over the age of 15 that can read and write) is 97%. 79.9% of US residents live in a metropolitan area.

The United States is a federal republic composed of 50 states and 1 district (the District of Columbia). The US has many dependent areas: American Samoa, Baker Island, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and Wake Atoll. It's legal system is based on English common law and judicial review of legislative acts and universal suffrage is 18 years of age.

The government consists of three equal branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive branch is headed by the president and vice-president, who are elected every four years. The legislative branch is a bicameral Congress. The Senate is composed of 100 representatives (two from each state) and the House of Representatives is composed of 435 seats (seats are based on state population). The Judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court; it is administered by nine justices who are appointed for life by the president with confirmation by the Senate.

The Gross Domestic Product of the United States is $8.511 trillion (1998 est.). The GDP's real growth rate is 3.9% and the GDP per capita is $31,500. Military expenditures total $267.2 billion (1997 est.), which is 3.4% of the GDP. The GDP composition by sector is:

agriculture: 2%
industry: 23%
services: 75% (1998 est.)

In 1998, the US revenues were $1.722 trillion, while the expenditures were $1.653 trillion. Leading industries include:, industrial, technological, petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, consumer goods, lumber, and mining. Leading exports are capital goods, automobiles, industrial supplies and raw materials, consumer goods, and agricultural products. The United States' main export partners are Canada 22%, Western Europe 21%, Japan 10%, and Mexico 10%. Imports into the US are crude oil and refined petroleum products, machinery, automobiles, consumer goods, industrial raw materials, and food and beverages. The main import partners are Canada 19%, Western Europe 18%, Japan 14%, Mexico 10%, and China 7%.

The US population below the poverty line is 13% (1997 est.), while the inflation rate is 2.2% (1999). The 1998 US unemployment rate was 4.5%. The labor force of the US, including unemployed people, is 137.7 million (1998). The labor force is distributed among the following occupations:

managerial and professional 29.6%
technical, sales and administrative support 29.3%
services 13.6%
manufacturing, mining, transportation, and crafts 24.8%
farming, forestry, and fishing 2.7%

The United States experiences serious environmental challenges, including: air pollution resulting in acid rain in both the US and Canada (the US is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels); water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; and very limited natural fresh water resources in much of the western part of the country. The US is working to correct these situations and is party to many international environmental agreements, including: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, and Whaling. The US has signed, but not ratified, the following international environmental agreements: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Biodiversity, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes.

The US continues to have international boundary and territorial disputes. Its disputes are with Canada (Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Machias Seal Island); Cuba (the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and only mutual agreement or US abandonment of the area can terminate the lease); Haiti claims Navassa Island; US has made no territorial claim in Antarctica (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other nation; and Marshall Islands claims Wake Atoll.

The United States, while a relatively young country, has a unique cultural heritage. US residents strive to preserve and promote the eclectic identity and valued resources the people and the land have provided. Thus, the United States has over 1500 botanical gardens and arboreta, 185 zoos and aquaria, 122,000 libraries, 8,000 museums, and countless archives. These institutions are under the jurisdiction of the federal, state, county, or city government or are privately owned. The Smithsonian Institution, located in Washington, DC, is a federally owned institution composed of sixteen different museums, including a zoo. It is free to any visitor. The federal and state government also hold and maintain lands around the country for public recreation and enjoyment.

Thunderstorms can occur anywhere in the world and at any time of the day. Across the globe nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring at any moment. All thunderstorms produce lightning and thunder, but have the potential to produce damaging straight-line winds, large hail, heavy rain and flooding, and tornadoes. The National Severe Storms Laboratory provides information about thunderstorms on their website (http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/researchitems/thunderstorms.shtml) and elsewhere. That information has been adapted here for a more thorough understanding of these violent storms that affect cultural property.

A thunderstorm is classified as severe when it contains one or more of the following phenomena:

Hail 3/4" or greater
Winds gusting in excess of 50 knots (57.5 mph)
A tornado

We can see thunderstorms with a variety of tools. Radars let us see where rain and hail are located in the storm. Doppler radars also let us see how the wind is blowing within and near the storm. Some features of thunderstorms, such as the anvil that spreads out at the top of the storm, can be seen from satellites.

Many hazardous weather events are associated with thunderstorms. Fortunately, the area affected by any one of them is fairly small and, most of the time, the damage is fairly light. Lightning is responsible for many fires around the world each year, as well as causing deaths when people are struck. Under the right conditions, rainfall from thunderstorms causes flash flooding, which can change small creeks into raging torrents in a matter of minutes, washing away large boulders and most man-made structures. Hail up to the size of softballs damages cars and windows, and kills wildlife caught out in the open. Strong (up to more than 120 mph) straight-line winds associated with thunderstorms knock down trees and power lines. In one storm in Canada in 1991, an area of forest approximately 10 miles wide and 50 miles long was blown down. Tornadoes (with winds up to about 300 mph) can destroy all but the best-built man-made structures.

There is no computer program available that:

1. tracks individual storms (including supercells)
2. is available to the public
3. is available in near real time.

Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive forces of nature are found most frequently in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries. The National Severe Storms Laboratory provides information about tornadoes on their website (
http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/NWSTornado/) and elsewhere. That information has been adapted here for a more thorough understanding of these violent storms that affect cultural property.

A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Once a tornado in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, carried a motel sign 30 miles and dropped it in Arkansas!

Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms often produce large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. Tornadoes in the winter and early spring are often associated with strong, frontal systems that form in the Central States and move east. Occasionally, large outbreaks of tornadoes occur with this type of weather pattern. Several states may be affected by numerous severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

During the spring in the Central Plains, thunderstorms frequently develop along a "dryline," which separates very warm, moist air to the east from hot, dry air to the west. Tornado-producing thunderstorms may form as the dryline moves east during the afternoon hours.

Along the front range of the Rocky Mountains, in the Texas panhandle, and in the southern High Plains, thunderstorms frequently form as air near the ground flows "upslope" toward higher terrain. If other favorable conditions exist, these thunderstorms can produce tornadoes.

Tornadoes occasionally accompany tropical storms and hurricanes that move over land. Tornadoes are most common to the right and ahead of the path of the storm center as it comes onshore.

Tornadoes come from the energy released in a thunderstorm. As powerful as they are, tornadoes account for only a tiny fraction of the energy in a thunderstorm. What makes them dangerous is that their energy is concentrated in a small area, perhaps only a hundred yards across. Not all tornadoes are the same, of course, and science does not yet completely understand how part of a thunderstorm's energy sometimes gets focused into something as small as a tornado.

The damage from tornadoes comes from the strong winds they contain. It is generally believed that tornadic wind speeds can be as high as 300 mph in the most violent tornadoes. Wind speeds that high can cause automobiles to become airborne, rip ordinary homes to shreds, and turn broken glass and other debris into lethal missiles. The biggest threat to living creatures (including humans) from tornadoes is from flying debris and from being tossed about in the wind. It used to be believed that the low pressure in a tornado contributed to the damage by making buildings "explode" but this is no longer believed to be true.

Today, the development of Doppler radar has made it possible, under certain circumstances, to detect a tornado's winds with a radar. However, human beings remain an important part of the system to detect tornadoes, because not all tornadoes occur in situations where the radar can "see" them. Ordinary citizen volunteers make up what is called the SKYWARN (
http://www.skywarn.org) network of storm spotters, who work with their local communities to watch out for approaching tornadoes, so that those communities can take appropriate action in the event of a tornado. Spotter information is relayed to the National Weather Service, which operates the Doppler radars and which issues warnings (usually relayed to the public by radio and TV) for communities ahead of the storms, using all the information they can obtain from weather maps, modern weather radars, storm spotters, monitoring power line breaks, and so on.

Yes, but only to a limited extent. Although the process by which tornadoes form is not completely understood, scientific research has revealed that tornadoes usually form under certain types of atmospheric conditions. However, it is not yet possible to predict in advance exactly when and where they will develop, how strong they will be, or precisely what path they will follow.. Once a tornado is formed and has been detected, warnings can be issued based on the path of the storm producing the tornado, but even these cannot be perfectly precise about who will or will not be struck.

The answer to this depends on what is being measured ... the easiest way to answer this is by the size of the damage path. The typical tornado damage path is about one or two miles, with a width of about 50 yards. The largest tornado path widths can exceed one mile, and the smallest widths can be less than 10 yards. Widths can vary considerably during a single tornado, because the size of the tornado can change considerably during its lifetime. Path lengths can vary from what is basically a single point to more than 100 miles. Note that tornado intensity (the peak windspeeds) is not necessarily related to the tornado size... bigger is not necessarily stronger!

Detailed statistics about the time a tornado is on the ground are not available. This time can range from an instant to several hours ... what is typical is roughly 5 minutes or so.

As with tornado duration, detailed statistics about forward speed are not available. Movement can range from virtually stationary to more than 60 miles per hour ... what is typical is roughly 10-20 miles per hour.

Weak Tornadoes

69% of all tornadoes
Less than 5% of tornado deaths
Lifetime 1-10+ minutes
Winds less than 110 mph

Strong Tornadoes

29% of all tornadoes
Nearly 30% of all tornado deaths
May last 20 minutes or longer
Winds 110-205 mph

Violent Tornadoes

Only 2% of all tornadoes
70% of all tornado deaths
Lifetime can exceed 1 hour
Winds greater than 205 mph

The Fujita Scale is a subjective scale used to rate the intensity of a tornado. A rating is assigned after examining the damage caused by the tornado after it has passed over a man-made structure. The Fujita Scale can be found at http://www.tornadoproject.com/.
 F-Scale Number   Intensity Phrase  Wind Speed  Type of Damage Done
 F0  Gale tornado  40-72 mph  Some damage to chimneys; breaks branches off trees; pushes over shallow-rooted trees; damages sign boards
F1  Moderate tornado  73-112 mph  The lower limit is the beginning of hurricane wind speed; peels surface off roofs; mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned; moving autos pushed off the roads; attached garages may be destroyed. 
F2   Significant tornado 113-157 mph   Considerable damage. Roofs torn off frame houses; mobile homes demolished; boxcars pushed over; large trees snapped or uprooted; light object missiles generated.
F3  Severe tornado   158-206 mph  Roof and some walls torn off well constructed houses; trains overturned; most trees in forest uprooted.
F4  Devastating tornado   207-260 mph Well-constructed houses leveled; structures with weak foundations blown off some distance; cars thrown and large missiles generated. 
 F5 Incredible tornado  261-318 mph  Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances to disintegrate; automobile sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 meters; trees debarked; steel re-inforced concrete structures badly damaged. 


 Inconceivable tornado

 319-379 mph

 These winds are very unlikely. The small area of damage they might produce would probably not be recognizable along with the mess produced by F4 and F5 wind that would surround the F6 winds. Missiles, such as cars and refrigerators would do serious secondary damage that could not be directly identified as F6 damage. If this level is ever achieved, evidence for it might only be found in some manner of ground swirl pattern, for it may never be identifiable through engineering studies


 Year  Number of Tornadoes  Property Damage (in millions)




























In most years. flooding accounts for or is involved with three quarters of Federal Disaster declarations. Floods generally claim about 140 lives each year, making them the US's number one weather related killer. They are also responsible for more damage to property each year than any other type of weather hazard. There are several types of flooding: flash floods, river floods, coastal floods, urban floods, and ice jams. The National Severe Storms Laboratory provides information about floods on their website (
http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/researchitems/flooding.shtml) and elsewhere. The National Weather Service also provides information at (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/ffbro.htm). The information from these sources has been adapted here for a more thorough understanding of these destructive events.

Several factors contribute to flash flooding. The two key elements are rainfall intensity and duration. Intensity is the rate of rainfall, and duration is how long the rain lasts. Topography, soil conditions, and ground cover also play an important role.

Flash floods occur within a few minutes or hours of excessive rainfall, a dam or levee failure, or a sudden release of water held by an ice jam. Flash floods can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and bridges, and scour out new channels. Rapidly rising water can reach heights of 30 feet or more. Furthermore, flash flood-producing rains can also trigger catastrophic mud slides. Most flood deaths are due to flash floods.

Most flash flooding is caused by slow-moving thunderstorms, thunderstorms repeatedly moving over the same area, or heavy rains from hurricanes and tropical storms.

Occasionally, floating debris or ice can accumulate at a natural or man-made obstruction and restrict the flow of water. Water held back by the ice jam or debris dam can cause flooding upstream. Subsequent flash flooding can occur downstream if the obstruction should suddenly release.

An example of the awesome power and destruction of flash floods is the June 9, 1972 flood in Rapid City, South Dakota. Fifteen inches of rain fell in only five hours. The flood caused 238 fatalities and $164 million in damages. The worst flood in US history was May 31, 1889 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The flood was in the form of a 36-40 foot wall of water that left over 2,200 dead.

Lightning is the most dangerous and frequently encountered weather hazard that most people experience each year. It is the second most frequent killer in the United States with nearly 100 deaths and 500 injuries each year. (Floods and flash floods are the number one cause of weather related deaths in the US.) The National Severe Storms Laboratory provides information about lightning on their website (
http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/faq/faq_ltg.php) and elsewhere. That information has been adapted here.

Lightning originates around 15,000 to 25,000 feet above sea level when raindrops are carried upward until some of them convert to ice. For reasons that are not widely agreed upon, a cloud-to-ground lightning flash originates in this mixed water and ice region. The charge then moves downward in 50-yard sections called step leaders. It keeps moving toward the ground in these steps and produces a channel along which charge is deposited. Eventually, it encounters something on the ground that is a good connection. The circuit is complete at that time, and the charge is lowered from cloud to ground. The flow of charge (current) produces a luminosity that is very much brighter than the part that came down. This entire event usually takes less than half a second.

Lightning comes from a parent cumulonimbus cloud. These thunderstorm clouds are formed wherever there is enough upward motion, instability in the vertical, and moisture to produce a deep cloud that reaches up to levels somewhat colder than freezing. These conditions are most often met in summer.

In general, the US mainland has a decreasing amount of lightning toward the northwest. Over the entire year, the highest frequency of cloud-to-ground lightning is in Florida between Tampa and Orlando. This is due to the presence, on many days during the year, of a large moisture content in the atmosphere at low levels (below 5,000 feet), as well as high surface temperatures that produce strong sea breezes along the Florida coasts. The western mountains of the US also produce strong upward motions and contribute to frequent cloud-to-ground lightning. There are also high frequencies along the Gulf of Mexico coast westward to Texas, the Atlantic coast in the southeast US, and inland from the Gulf. Regions along the Pacific west coast have the least cloud-to-ground lightning.

Flashes that do not strike the surface are called cloud flashes. They may be inside a cloud, travel from one part of a cloud to another, or from cloud to air.

Since the 1980s, cloud-to-ground lightning flashes have been detected and mapped in real time across the entire US by several networks. In 1994, the networks were combined into one national network consisting of antennas that detect the angle from ground strike points to an antenna (direction-finder antenna), that detect the time it took for them to arrive at an antenna (time-of-arrival method), or a combination of both detection methods. The network is operated by Global Atmospherics, Inc. You can also get lightning data for our neighbors to the north in Alberta, Canada.

Flashes have also been detected from space during the past few years by an optical sensor. This experimental satellite covers the earth twice a day in tropical regions. The satellite also detects flashes that do not strike the ground, but cannot tell the difference between ground strikes and cloud flashes.

Over the continental 48 states, an average of 20,000,000 cloud-to-ground flashes have been detected every year since the lightning detection network covered all of the continental US in 1989. In addition, about half of all flashes have more than one ground strike point, so at least 30 million points on the ground are struck on the average each year in the US. Besides cloud-to-ground flashes, there are roughly 5 to 10 times as many cloud flashes as there are to ground.

Cloud-to-ground lightning can kill or injure people by direct or indirect means. The lightning current can branch off to a person from a tree, fence, pole, or other tall object. It is not known if all people are killed who are directly struck by the flash itself. In addition, flashes may conduct their current through the ground to a person after the flash strikes a nearby tree, antenna, or other tall object. The current also may travel through power or telephone lines, or plumbing pipes to a person who is in contact with an electric appliance, telephone, or plumbing fixture.

Similarly, objects can be directly struck and this impact may result in an explosion, burn, or total destruction. Or, the damage may be indirect when the current passes through or near it. Sometimes, current may enter a building and transfer through wires or plumbing and damage everything in its path. Similarly, in urban areas, it may strike a pole or tree and the current then travels to several nearby houses and other structures and enter them through wiring or plumbing.


 Year  Deaths  Injuries

There are no other storms like hurricanes on earth. Views of hurricanes from satellites located thousands of miles above the earth show how unique these powerful, tightly coiled weather systems are. The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory provides information about hurricanes on their website (
http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/general/lib/hurricane.html) and elsewhere. That information has been adapted here for a more thorough understanding of these massive disasters.

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone-the general term for all circulating weather systems (counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere) over tropical waters. Tropical cyclones are classified as follows:

1. Tropical Depression - An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.

2. Tropical Storm - An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34-63 knots).

3. Hurricane - An intense tropical weather system with a well defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western Pacific, hurricanes are called "typhoons," and similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called "cyclones."

Hurricanes are products of the tropical ocean and atmosphere. Powered by heat from the sea, they are steered by the easterly trade winds and the temperate westerlies as well as by their own ferocious energy. Around their core, winds grow with great velocity, generating violent seas. Moving ashore, they sweep the ocean inward while spawning tornadoes and producing torrential rains and floods. Each year on average, ten tropical storms (of which six become hurricanes) develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. Many of these remain over the ocean. However, about five hurricanes strike the United States coastline every 3 years. Of these five, two will be major hurricanes (category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale).

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, described at the National Hurricane Center website (http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshs.html), is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane's present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale, as storm surge values are highly dependent on the slope of the continental shelf in the landfall region.

 Category Wind Speed  Description  Examples 
 Category One Hurricane  74-95 mph (64-82 kt or 119-153 kph)  Storm surge generally 4-5 ft above normal. No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.  Hurricanes Allison of 1995 and Danny of 1997 were Category One hurricanes at peak intensity.
 Category Two Hurricane:  Winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt or 154-177 kph).  Storm surge generally 6-8 feet above normal. Some roofing material, door, and window damage of buildings. Considerable damage to shrubbery and trees with some trees blown down. Considerable damage to mobile homes, poorly constructed signs, and piers. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings.  Hurricane Bonnie of 1998 was a Category Two hurricane when it hit the North Carolina coast, while Hurricane Georges of 1998 was a Category Two Hurricane when it hit the Florida Keys and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
 Category Three Hurricane:  111-130 mph (96-113 kt or 178-209 kph).  Storm surge generally 9-12 ft above normal. Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtainwall failures. Damage to shrubbery and trees with foliage blown off trees and large tress blown down. Mobile homes and poorly constructed signs are destroyed. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by battering of floating debris. Terrain continuously lower than 5 ft above mean sea level may be flooded inland 8 miles (13 km) or more. Evacuation of low-lying residences with several blocks of the shoreline may be required  Hurricanes Roxanne of 1995 and Fran of 1996 were Category Three hurricanes at landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and in North Carolina, respectively.
 Category Four Hurricane:  131-155 mph (114-135 kt or 210-249 kph).  Storm surge generally 13-18 ft above normal. More extensive curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure failures on small residences. Shrubs, trees, and all signs are blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Extensive damage to doors and windows. Low-lying escape routes may be cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore. Terrain lower than 10 ft above sea level may be flooded requiring massive evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 6 miles (10 km).  Hurricane Luis of 1995 was a Category Four hurricane while moving over the Leeward Islands. Hurricanes Felix and Opal of 1995 also reached Category Four status at peak intensity.
 Category Five Hurricane:  Winds greater than 155 mph (135 kt or 249 kph).  Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required.  Hurricane Mitch of 1998 was a Category Five hurricane at peak intensity over the western Caribbean. Hurricane Gilbert of 1988 was a Category Five hurricane at peak intensity and is the strongest Atlantic tropical cyclone of record.

The United States has a significant hurricane problem. From Maine to Texas, our coastline is filled with new homes, condominium towers, and cities built on sand waiting for the next storm to threaten its residents and their dreams. There are now some 45 million permanent residents along the hurricane-prone coastline, and the population is still growing. The most rapid growth has been in the sunbelt from Texas through the Carolinas. Florida, where hurricanes are most frequent, leads the Nation in new residents. In addition to the permanent residents, the holiday, weekend, and vacation populations swell in some coastal areas 10- to 100-fold. A large portion of the coastal areas with high population densities are subject to the inundation from the hurricane's storm surge that historically has caused the greatest loss of life and extreme property damage.

Over the past several years, the warning system has provided adequate time for people on the barrier islands and the immediate coastline to move inland when hurricanes have threatened. However, it is becoming more difficult to evacuate people from the barrier islands and other coastal areas because roads have not kept pace with the rapid population growth. The problem is further compounded by the fact that 80 to 9O percent of the population now living in hurricane-prone areas have never experienced the core of a "major" hurricane. Many of these people have been through weaker storms. The result is a false impression of a hurricane's damage potential. This often leads to complacency and delayed actions which could result in the loss of many lives.

During the 70's and 80's, major hurricanes striking the United States were less frequent than the previous three decades. With the tremendous increase in population along the high risk areas of our shorelines, we may not fare as well in the future. This will be especially true when hurricane activity inevitably returns to the frequencies experienced during the 40's through the 60's.

 Year  Number of Hurricanes Property Damage (in millions) 
1990 1 $57 
1991  1  $1,500
 1992* 2 $26,500 
1993  2  $57
1994 0 
1995  2 $5,932.3 
1996  3 $1,436.1 
1997   1 $667.6 
1998  3   $6,699



*Includes Hurricane Andrew. Andrew was a small and ferocious Cape Verde hurricane that wrought unprecedented economic devastation along a path through the northwestern Bahamas, the southern Florida peninsula, and south-central Louisiana. Damage in the United States is estimated to be near 25 billion, making Andrew the most expensive natural disaster in US history!. The hurricane struck southern Dade County, Florida, especially hard, with violent winds and storm surges characteristic of a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale. In Dade County alone, the forces of Andrew resulted in 15 deaths and up to one-quarter million people left temporarily homeless. An additional 25 lives were lost in Dade County from the indirect effects of Andrew.


February 1994
Ice Storm
Mississippi Louisiana
$1.3 billion damage in MS
$13.5 million in LA

March 27, 1994
Tornado Outbreak
Goshen Church Alabama
20 deaths
320 injuries
$107 million damage

April-May 1994
Spring Flooding
North Dakota
1 death
More than $50 million in damage

April 25, 1994
Dallas County, TX
3 deaths
27 injuries
$200 million damage

May-June 1994
Spring Flooding, Alaska
$70 million damage

July 1994
Tropical storm Alberto
32 deaths
$1 billion damage

July 6, 1994
Forest fire, CO
4 deaths

October 16, 1994
Tropical Rainfall
SE Texas
18 deaths

January & March 1995
Winter Flooding
20 deaths
$1 billion damage

May 1995
Widespread Midwest River Flooding
4-5 deaths
$1 billion in damage

May 5, 1995
Flash flooding and hail
Dallas/Ft. Worth TX
21 deaths (flash flooding mostly)
510 injuries (hail mostly)
$900 million damage by hail

May 8-10, 1995
Major Flash Flooding
7 deaths
$3.5 billion damage

May 18, 1995
Sever Weather Outbreak
6 deaths
65 injuries

September 15-16, 1995
Hurricane Marilyn
7 deaths

October 4-5, 1995
Hurricane Opal
Florida, Alabama
9 deaths
$3 billion damage


January 6-9
Blizzard of '96
AL to MA
80-90 deaths

January 18-19
Rain/Snow Melt
30 deaths

West/SW Fires
Several Deaths

February 5-9
Pacific NW Flood
4 deaths

March 6
Alabama Tornadoes
7 deaths

SW Drought/Fires

April 14
AR Tornadoes
7 deaths

April 18-20
Illinois/Indiana Tornadoes
1 death

April 20
Midwest/Ohio Valley Flooding
5 deaths

April 21-22
AR Tornadoes
4 deaths

May 28
Kentucky Tornadoes
No deaths

July 5-14
Hurricane Bertha
12 deaths

August 24-September 6
Hurricane Fran
27 deaths

December 26-29
Pacific NW Floods
9 deaths

In 1996, 540 people died of weather-related causes- 822 less than in 1995 and 152 more than 1994. The 11-year average for weather-related fatalities is 473.

In 1996, flooding accounted for the greatest number of fatalities with a total of 131 (24%), followed by winter storms/blizzards with 86 fatalities (15.9%). There were 2,711 persons injured by severe weather in 1996. Tornadoes caused the most injuries with 705 (26.8%) and winter storms/blizzards caused another 677 injuries (25%).

Of the 540 weather-related fatalities, two-thirds (366) were males and one-third (168) were females. Eighty-six percent of the male fatalities were between the ages of 10 and 79. Male fatalities out paced female fatalities in all the categories except the 80+ age group.

Damage costs totaled nearly $8 billion. Flooding produced the greatest amount of property and crop damage: $2.54 billion (32%). Tropical Storms and hurricanes ranked second with $1.79 billion (22.4%). Drought caused the greatest amount of crop damage- $504 million (26.7%).

Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and North Carolina were the most dangerous states to live in during 1996 with respect to fatalities. North Carolina received the greatest amount of property damage, more than $1.5 billion, thanks to Hurricanes Fran and Bertha. Texas crops received the most damage: $568 million in lost revenue.

Weatherwise in 1996, the deadliest weather month was January, with 98 fatalities, followed by July with 73, February with 63, and September with 59. Many of the January deaths occurred during the "Blizzard of '96." Hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, and traffic accidents were the primary causes of death during the blizzard. Freezing temperatures throughout the Plains states caused more hypothermia deaths. A warming trend toward the end of January 1996 took more lives as melting snow caused severe flooding in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In July, Texas and Oklahoma were hit hard by extreme heat in the south-central Plains, costing lives. July also brought rip currents, lightning, Hurricane Bertha, and flash flooding, accounting for most of the remainder of the deaths that month. Most of the September fatalities were a result of Hurricane Fran, lightning strikes, and flash flooding.

Again, in 1996, flooding ranked as the #1 weather killer in the United States. In 1995, summer heat rather than flooding claimed more lives with 1,021 deaths. The 30-year average for flash floods/floods fatalities is 138; for lightning, 83; tornado, 70; and hurricanes, 24.


January Freeze
$13 million crop damage

January 3-22
Severe Cold/Blizzards
14 deaths
$74.8 million damage

January 4-5
Severe Weather
2 deaths
$2.8 million damage

January 6-15
Cold/Freezing Precipitation
9 deaths
$41 million damage

January 24
SE Severe weather outbreak
LA to NC
1 death
$6.6 million damage

March 1
Arkansas Tornadoes
25 deaths
$115 million damage

March 1
3 deaths
$5.4 million damage

Upper Midwest flooding
4 deaths
$4.2 billion damage

March 1-7
Ohio Valley Floods
20 deaths
$1 billion damage

March 5
Severe Thunderstorm
2 deaths
$358,000 damage

March 5-6
High Wind
5 deaths
$2.8 million damage

March 31-April 1
March Nor'easter
4 deaths
$10 million damage

May 27
Texas Tornadoes
30 deaths
$130 million damage

July 17-21
Hurricane Danny
S MI, FL Panhandle, S AL, SC, NC
4 deaths
$100 million damage

July 28
Colorado Flash Flood
5 deaths
$190 million damage

August 6 and 17
Arizona Flash Floods
19 deaths
$5,000 damage

October 24-26
Central Plains Snow Storm
8 deaths
$91.6 million damage

In 1997, there were 600 weather-related fatalities-60 more than in 1996. The average number of deaths per year for the past 10 years is 524, increasing slightly from last year's average of 499.

As usual, floods accounted for the greatest number of fatalities with 118 (20%), followed by winter storms/blizzards with 84 ). Again, in 1997, flooding ranked as the #1 weather killer in the United States.

The total number of weather-related injuries in 1997 climbed to 3,799, compared to 2,711 in 1996-an increase of 1,088 (29%). Tornadoes caused the most injuries again this year with 1,033 (27%). Winter storms/blizzards and extreme heat ranked second and third with 573 (15%) and 530 (14%) injuries, respectively.

Damage caused by severe weather cost the Nation nearly $10.8 billion in 1997. Flooding caused the greatest amount of property damage with $6.9 billion. Tornadoes ranked second in property loss with million followed closely by winter storms/blizzards with $688.6 million and tropical storms/hurricanes with $667.6 million. Extreme cold was responsible for the greatest amount of crop damage with $304.3 million. Drought ranked second with $253 million.

Of the 600 weather-related fatalities, almost two-thirds (368 or 61%) were males. Sixty-nine (69%) percent of the male fatalities were between the ages of 20 to 70. Male deaths out paced female deaths in all age categories except 80 to 90 age group.

The deadliest weather month in 1997 was January with 108 fatalities, followed by July with 91 and March with 85. Most of the January deaths were due to winter storms/blizzards, although there were a few fatalities caused by tornadoes and flash flooding. Four people died in Hawaii while attempting to save a person who was swept into the rough surf while taking photographs. Many of the July fatalities were a result of extreme heat in the Philadelphia area. Of the March fatalities, 26 were victims of tornadoes in Arkansas and Mississippi. Most of the remaining March fatalities were a result of flooding and winter weather. In 1997, Texas recorded the highest number of fatalities with 67, including 42 victims of tornadoes in Jarrell, TX. Flash flooding resulted in many of the remaining Texas fatalities. Next hardest hit were Pennsylvania (49), Illinois (46) and California (43).

Arkansas had the most injuries with 456, followed by Texas with 387.

Flooding of the Red River caused more than $3.7 billion in property damage to North Dakota. When Pacific Hurricane Nora crossed into Arizona from Baja California, it caused $200 million in crop damage. Temperatures dropped into the low 20s in Florida on January 19, causing more than $214 million in crop damage.

The 30-year average for flash floods/flood fatalities rose slightly from 138 in 1996 to 140 in 1997. As of 1997, the 30-year average fatality rate for lightning is 81; tornadoes, 69; and hurricanes, 24. The 10-year average for cold related fatalities is 38; for heat related, 131.


January 4-8
10 deaths

January 6-9
Winter Storm/Flood
7 deaths
$500 million damage

February 2-4
California Floods
5 deaths
$500 million damage

February 2-5
Coastal Storm
2 deaths

February 22-23
42 deaths
$100+ million damage

March 20
14 deaths
$16 million damage GA, VA

April 8
40 deaths
$300 million damage

April 16
12 deaths
$110 million damage

May 25-July 15
Florida Fires
1 death
$390 + million damage

May 30
Spencer Tornado
6 deaths
$18 million

May 30-31
Severe Weather Outbreak
11 deaths
1 million without power

Heat Wave/Drought
200+ deaths
$6 billion damage
August 21-26

August 19-28
Hurricane Bonnie
1 death
$1 billion damage

September 7-8
Severe Thunderstorms
4 deaths
750,000 without power

Sept. 18-29
Hurricane Georges
3 US Deaths
$3-$4 damage

October 17-29
Texas Flooding
29 deaths
$750 million damage

December 19-27
Citrus Freeze CA
$600 million damage

Hurricane Earl
3 deaths
$70 million damage

Tropical Storm Charley
10 deaths
$200 million damage

In 1998, there were 687 fatalities-87 more than in 1997. The 10-year average number of weather-related fatalities (1989-1998) is 567. In 1998, extreme heat ranked as the #1 weather-related killer with 173 fatalities. Floods resulted in 136 deaths, followed closely by tornadoes with 130.

Weather-related injuries more than tripled in 1998 to 11,171 compared to 3,799 in 1997. Floods caused an astounding 6,440 (57.6%) injuries. Of those injuries, 6,091 occurred during a flood in south-central Texas between October 17-21, 1998. Tornadoes again ranked second with 1,868 injuries (16.7%), up from last year's 1,033. Thunderstorm winds followed with 860 injuries (8%).

In 1998, severe weather accounted for more than $16 billion in damages. Topping the damage list were tropical storms and hurricanes with $4.1 billion (26%). Drought was the next most devastating with property losses nearing $2.2 billion, followed by tornadoes at $1.7 billion. States suffering more than a billion dollars in property damage included Puerto Rico, Florida, Minnesota and Texas. Texas and California had the worst crop damage: $1.37 and $1.19 billion, respectively. Texas suffered the highest property and crop damage with more than $2.4 billion. Puerto Rico had more than $2 billion in total damages-$1.7 billion from Hurricane Georges alone.

Of the 687 people who died because of severe weather, 449 were male (65%) and 233 were female (34%), nearly twice as many males as females. The 30-49 age group accounted for the largest number of fatalities with 199. Children and the elderly remained the safest, except for heat, for which the elderly are most susceptible.

July was the deadliest month with 121 fatalities (17%) caused by excessive heat and flash flooding. June ranked second with 90 (13%) deaths resulting from excessive heat. February came in third with 84 fatalities from flooding in the West, tornadoes in Florida and snow in Kentucky.

In 1998, Texas recorded the highest number of fatalities with 122-nearly twice as many (67) as in 1997. Excessive heat and floods caused the fatalities. Next were Florida and Alabama with 75 and 50 fatalities, respectively, mostly from tornadoes. Texas had the highest number of injuries with 6,442, mainly from flooding. In 1998, extreme heat ranked as the #1 weather killer in the United States, outranking floods.

The 30-year average (1969-1998) for flood deaths rose slightly from 140 in 1997 to 143 in 1998. The 30-year average death rate for lightning is 79; tornadoes, 69; and hurricanes, 24. Cold and heat statistics date back to 1989. The 10-year average for cold related fatalities is 38; for heat related fatalities, 144.


January 2-3
Midwest Snowstorm
34 deaths
500,000 lost power

January 17
TN Tornado
8 deaths
$90 million in damages

January 21-22
10 deaths
$1.3 billion in damages

January 22
Ice Storm
435,000 lost power

January 22-23
Midwest flooding
7 deaths

Jan. 28- Feb. 10
Extreme Cold
-74°F Chandalar Lake, Alaska

February 25
Heavy Snow
1 death

March 2-3
Coastal Storm:WA, OR
1 death
250,000 lost power

April 8-9
OH, IL Tornadoes/Severe thunderstorms
9 deaths
$41 million in damages

April 15-16
2 deaths
$19 million in damages

May 3
KS, OK tornadoes
49 deaths
$1.1 billion in damages

May 5
TN Tornado
4 deaths
$7 million in damages

May 16
IA Tornado
2 deaths
$1.5 million damages

July 3-6
Heat Wave
37 deaths
July 19-31
Heat Wave
257 deaths

August 11
UT Tornado
1 death
$150 million in damages

August 28- September 4
Hurricane Dennis
$43 million damages

August 22
Hurricane Bret
$34 million in damages

September 13-17
Hurricane Floyd
68 deaths
$3 billion damages

October 14-17
Hurricane Irene
6 deaths
Damages to be determined

November 13-22
Hurricane Lenny
Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
1 death
$330 million damages

FL Wildfires
43 homes destroyed
250,000 acres burned

by Tom Ross and Neal Lott

The US has sustained 44 weather-related disasters over the past 20 years in which overall damages and costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. 38 of these disasters occurred during the 1988-1999 period with total damages/costs exceeding $170 billion. Seven occurred during 1998 alone--the most for any year on record, though other years have recorded higher damage totals. All figures below reflect direct and indirect damages, costs, and deaths. Events are listed beginning with the most recent (reverse chronological order).

Two damage figures are given for events prior to 1996--the first figure represents actual dollar costs at the time of the event and is not adjusted for inflation. Therefore, event costs over time should not be compared using this value. The second value in parenthesis (if given) is the dollar cost normalized to 1998 dollars using a GNP inflation/wealth index. This allows for more accurate comparison of damage figures over time.

These statistics represent the estimated total costs of these events---that is, the costs in terms of dollars and lives that would not have been incurred had the event not taken place. Insured and uninsured losses are included in damage estimates. Economic costs are included for wide-scale, long-lasting events such as drought. Estimates are periodically updated as more data/information become available. Sources include the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, other US government agencies, individual state emergency management agencies, and insurance industry estimates.

1. Hurricane Floyd September 1999. Large category 2 hurricane makes landfall in eastern NC, causing 10-20 inch rains in 2 days, with severe flooding in NC and some flooding in SC, VA, MD, PA, NY, NJ, DE, RI, CT, MA, NH, and VT; preliminary estimates of at least $6.0 billion damage/costs; 77 deaths.

2. Eastern Drought/Heat Wave Summer 1999. Very dry summer and high temperatures, mainly in eastern US, with extensive agricultural losses; over $1.0 billion damage/costs; estimated 256 deaths.

3. Oklahoma-Kansas Tornadoes May 1999. Outbreak of F4-F5 tornadoes hit the states of Oklahoma and Kansas, along with Texas and Tennessee, Oklahoma City area hardest hit; at least $1.0 billion damage/costs; 55 deaths.

4. Arkansas-Tennessee Tornadoes January 1999. Two outbreaks of tornadoes in 6-day period strike Arkansas and Tennessee; approximately $1.3 billion damage/costs; 17 deaths.

5. Texas Flooding October-November 1998. Severe flooding in southeast Texas from 2 heavy rain events, with 10-20 inch rainfall totals; approximately $1.0 billion damage/costs; 31 deaths.

6. Hurricane Georges September 1998. Category 2 hurricane strikes Puerto Rico, Florida Keys, and Gulf coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida panhandle, 15-30 inch 2-day rain totals in parts of AL/FL; estimated $5.9 billion damage/costs; 16 deaths.

7. Hurricane Bonnie August 1998. Category 3 hurricane strikes eastern North Carolina and Virginia, extensive agricultural damage due to winds and flooding, with 10-inch rains in 2 days in some locations; approximately $1.0 billion damage/costs; 3 deaths.

8. Southern Drought/Heat Wave Summer 1998. Severe drought and heat wave from Texas/Oklahoma eastward to the Carolinas; $6.0-$9.0 billion damage/costs to agriculture and ranching; at least 200 deaths.

9. Minnesota Severe Storms/Hail May 1998. Very damaging severe thunderstorms with large hail over wide areas of Minnesota; over $1.5 billion damage/costs; 1 death.

10. Southeast Severe Weather Winter-Spring 1998. Tornadoes and flooding related to El Nino in southeastern states; over $1.0 billion damage/costs; at least 132 deaths.

11. Northeast Ice Storm January 1998. Intense ice storm hits Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, with extensive forestry losses; over $1.4 billion damage/costs; 16 deaths.

12. Northern Plains Flooding April-May 1997. Severe flooding in Dakotas and Minnesota due to heavy spring snowmelt; approximately $3.7 billion damage/costs; 11 deaths.

13. MS and OH Valleys Flooding and Tornadoes March 1997. Tornadoes and severe flooding hit the states of AR, MO, MS, TN, IL, IN, KY, OH, and WV, with over 10 inches in 24 hours in Louisville; estimated $1.0 billion damage/costs; 67 deaths.

14. West Coast Flooding December 1996-January 1997. Torrential rains (10-40 inches in 2 weeks) and snowmelt produce severe flooding over portions of California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Montana; approximately $3.0 billion damage/costs; 36 deaths.

15. Hurricane Fran September 1996. Category 3 hurricane strikes North Carolina and Virginia, over 10-inch 24-hour rains in some locations and extensive agricultural and other losses; over $5.0 billion damage/costs; 37 deaths.

16. Southern Plains Severe Drought Fall 1995 through Summer 1996. Severe drought in agricultural regions of southern plains--Texas and Oklahoma most severely affected; approximately $5.0 billion damage/costs; no deaths.

17. Pacific Northwest Severe Flooding February 1996. Very heavy, persistent rains (10-30 inches) and melting snow over Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and western Montana; approximately $1.0 billion damage/costs; 9 deaths.

18. Blizzard of '96 Followed by Flooding January 1996. Very heavy snowstorm (1-4 feet) over Appalachians, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast; followed by severe flooding in parts of same area due to rain & snowmelt; approximately $3.0 billion damage/costs; 187 deaths.

19. Hurricane Opal October 1995. Category 3 hurricane strikes Florida panhandle, Alabama, western Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and the western Carolinas, causing storm surge, wind, and flooding damage; over $3.0 (3.3) billion damage/costs; 27 deaths.

20. Hurricane Marilyn September 1995. Category 2 hurricane devastates US Virgin Islands; estimated $2.1 (2.3) billion damage/costs; 13 deaths.

21. Texas/Oklahoma/Louisiana/Mississippi Severe Weather and Flooding May 1995. Torrential rains, hail, and tornadoes across Texas - Oklahoma and southeast Louisiana - southern Mississippi, with Dallas and New Orleans areas (10-25 inches in 5 days) hardest hit; $5.0-$6.0 (5.5-6.6) billion damage/costs; 32 deaths.

22. California Flooding January-March 1995. Frequent winter storms cause 20-70 inches rainfall and periodic flooding across much of California; over $3.0 (3.3) billion damage/costs; 27 deaths.

23. Western Fire Season Summer-Fall 1994. Severe fire season in western states due to dry weather; approximately $1.0 (1.1) billion damage/costs; death toll undetermined.

24. Texas Flooding October 1994. Torrential rain (10-25 inches in 5 days) and thunderstorms cause flooding across much of southeast Texas; approximately $1.0 (1.1) billion damage/costs; 19 deaths.

25. Tropical Storm Alberto July 1994. Remnants of slow-moving Alberto brought torrential 10-25 inch rains in 3 days, widespread flooding, and agricultural damage in parts of Georgia, Alabama, and panhandle of Florida; approximately $1.0 (1.1) billion damage/costs; 32 deaths.

26. Southeast Ice Storm February 1994. Intense ice storm with extensive damage in portions of TX, OK, AR, LA, MS, AL, TN, GA, SC, NC, and VA; approximately $3.0 (3.3) billion damage/costs; 9 deaths.

27. California Wildfires Fall 1993. Dry weather, high winds, and wildfires in southern California; approximately $1.0 (1.1) billion damage/costs; 4 deaths.

28. Midwest Flooding Summer 1993. Severe, widespread flooding in central US due to persistent heavy rains and thunderstorms; approximately $21.0 (23.1) billion damage/costs; 48 deaths.

29. Drought/Heat Wave Summer 1993. Southeastern US; about $1.0 (1.1) billion damage/costs to agriculture; death toll undetermined.

30. Storm/Blizzard March 1993. "Storm of the Century" hits entire eastern seaboard with tornadoes, high winds, and heavy snows (2-4 feet); $3.0-$6.0 (3.3-6.6) billion damage/costs; approximately 270 deaths.

31. Nor'easter of 1992 December 1992. Slow-moving storm batters northeast US coast, New England hardest hit; $1.0-$2.0 (1.2-2.4) billion damage/costs; 19 deaths.

32. Hurricane Iniki September 1992. Category 4 hurricane hits Hawaiian island of Kauai; about $1.8 (2.2) billion damage/costs; 7 deaths.

33. Hurricane Andrew August 1992. Category 4 hurricane hits Florida and Louisiana, high winds damage or destroy over 125,000 homes; approximately $27.0 (32.4) billion damage/costs; 61 deaths.

34. Oakland Firestorm October 1991. Oakland, California firestorm due to low humidity and high winds; approximately $2.5 (3.3) billion damage/costs; 25 deaths.

35. Hurricane Bob August 1991. Category 2 hurricane--Mainly coastal North Carolina, Long Island, and New England; $1.5 (2.0) billion damage/costs; 18 deaths.

36. Texas/Oklahoma/Louisiana/Arkansas Flooding May 1990. Torrential rains cause flooding along the Trinity, Red, and Arkansas Rivers in TX, OK, LA, and AR; over $1.0 (1.3) billion damage/costs; 13 deaths.

Earthquakes are a worldwide phenomenon that have the potential for mass destruction. One of the most devastating aspects of earthquakes are their unpredictability. Even with modern technology, we "Cannot predict with confidence either their precise time of arrival or their intensity... We can only predict that they will eventually happen" (Feilden 9). The United States Geological Survey provides information about earthquakes on their website (
http://quake.wr.usgs.gov/more/eqfaq.html) and elsewhere. That information has been adapted here for a more thorough understanding of these disasters that have so great an effect on cultural property.

An earthquake is caused by a sudden slip on a fault. A fault is a thin zone of crushed rock between two blocks of rock, and can be any length, from centimeters to thousands of kilometers. Stresses in the earth's outer layer push the sides of the fault together. Stress builds up and the rocks slips suddenly, releasing energy in waves that travel through the rock to cause the shaking that we feel during an earthquake.

An earthquake occurs when plates grind and scrape against each other. In California there are 2 plates the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. The Pacific Plate consists of most of the Pacific Ocean floor and the California Coast line. The North American Plate comprises most the North American Continent and parts of the Atlantic Ocean floor. These primary boundary between these 2 plates is the San Andreas fault. The San Andreas fault is more than 650 miles long and extends to depths of at least 10 miles. Many other smaller faults like the Hayward (Northern California) and the San Jacinto (Southern California) branch from and join the San Andreas fault zone. The Pacific plate grinds northwestward past the North American Plate at a rate of about 2 inches per year. Parts of the San Andreas fault system adapt to this movement by constant "creep" resulting in many tiny shocks and a few moderate earth tremors. In other areas where creep is NOT constant, strain can build up for hundreds of years, producing great earthquakes when it finally releases.

The zone with the most earthquakes is called the Circum-Pacific belt--about 90% of the world's earthquake occur there. The next most seismic region (5-6% of earthquakes) is the Alpide belt (extends from Mediterranean region, eastward through Turkey, Iran, and northern India.

We continue to hear from people throughout the world that earthquakes are on the increase, and it may seem that we are having more earthquakes -- however, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant throughout this century and according to records have actually seemed to decrease in recent years.

EXPLANATION: In the last 20 years we have been able to locate more earthquakes yearly because of the increase in the number of seismograph stations in the world and improved global communications. (e.g., 1931 there were 350 stations operating in the world, today more than 4,000 stations and the data comes in rapidly from these stations by telex, computer and satellite.) This increase has help us and other seismological centers to locate many small earthquakes which were undetected in earlier years.

The NEIC now locates about 12,000 to 14,000 earthquakes yearly or approximately 35/day.

1. Magnitude (you feel more intense shaking from a big earthquake than from a small one; big earthquake also release their energy over a larger area and for a
2. longer period of time. In most cases, only 10-15 seconds of shaking that originate from the part of the fault nearest you will be very strong;
3. distance from the fault (earthquake waves die off as they travel through the earth so earthquake shaking becomes less intense farther from the fault), and
4. local soil conditions (certain soils greatly amplify the shaking in an earthquake. Seismic waves travel at different speeds in different types of rocks. Passing from rock to soil, the waves slow down but get bigger. A soft, loose soil will shake more intensely than hard rock at the same distance from the same earthquake. The looser and thicker the soil is, the greater the amplification will be, (e.g, Loma Prieta earthquake damage area of Oakland and Marina (SF) were 100 km (60 mi) and most of the Bay Area escaped serious damage.

No. Earthquakes occur at all times of day. There have been damaging earthquakes both in the a.m. and p.m.

No. Many people believe earthquakes are more common in certain kinds of weather. In fact, no correlation with weather has been found. Earthquakes begin many kilometers below the region affected by surface weather. (People tend to notice earthquakes that fit the pattern and forget the ones that don't.)

No. The motion of plates will not make California sink--California is moving horizontally along the San Andreas fault and up around the Transverse Ranges.

No. Neither the USGS or CalTech or scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake (Parkfield was not a major earthquake). Nor do they know how or expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future. However based on scientific data scientist estimate that over the next 30 years the probability of a major earthquake occurring in the SF Bay area is 67% and 60% in Southern California.

To properly understand the effects of earthquakes, one must be familiar with the intensity scales used to measure their energy and devastation. The USGS states that although numerous intensity scales have been developed over the last several hundred years to evaluate the effects of earthquakes, the one currently used in the United States is the Modified Mercalli (MM) Intensity Scale. It was developed in 1931 by the American seismologists Harry Wood and Frank Neumann. This scale, composed of 12 increasing levels of intensity that range from imperceptible shaking to catastrophic destruction, is designated by Roman numerals. It does not have a mathematical basis; instead it is an arbitrary ranking based on observed effects. The Modified Mercalli Intensity value assigned to a specific site after an earthquake has a more meaningful measure of severity to the nonscientist than the magnitude because intensity refers to the effects actually experienced at that place. After the occurrence of widely-felt earthquakes, the Geological Survey mails questionnaires to postmasters in the disturbed area requesting the information so that intensity values can be assigned. The results of this postal canvas and information furnished by other sources are used to assign an intensity within the felt area. The maximum observed intensity generally occurs near the epicenter. The lower numbers of the intensity scale generally deal with the manner in which the earthquake is felt by people. The higher numbers of the scale are based on observed structural damage. Structural engineers usually contribute information for assigning intensity values of VIII or above.

The following is an abbreviated description of the 12 levels of Modified Mercalli intensity. This scale can be found at the National Earthquake Information Center's website (
http://wwwneic.cr.usgs.gov/neis/general/handouts/mercalli.html) and elsewhere.

I. Not felt except by a very few under especially favorable conditions.

II. Felt only by a few persons at rest, especially on upper floors of buildings.

III. Felt quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings. Many people do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibrations similar to the passing of a truck. Duration estimated.

IV. Felt indoors by many, outdoors by few during the day. At night, some awakened. Dishes, windows, doors disturbed; walls make cracking sound. Sensation like heavy truck striking building. Standing motor cars rocked noticeably.

V. Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes, windows broken. Unstable objects overturned. Pendulum clocks may stop.

VI. Felt by all, many frightened. Some heavy furniture moved; a few instances of fallen plaster. Damage slight.

VII. Damage negligible in buildings of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken.

VIII. Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable damage in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture overturned.

IX. Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.

X. Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.

XI. Few, if any (masonry) structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed. Rails bent greatly.

XII. Damage total. Lines of sight and level are distorted. Objects thrown into the air.

adapted from the National Earthquake Information Center.

The Richter magnitude scale was developed in 1935 by Charles F. Richter of the California Institute of Technology as a mathematical device to compare the size of earthquakes. The magnitude of an earthquake is determined from the logarithm of the amplitude of waves recorded by seismographs. Adjustments are included for the variation in the distance between the various seismographs and the epicenter of the earthquakes. On the Richter Scale, magnitude is expressed in whole numbers and decimal fractions. For example, a magnitude 5.3 might be computed for a moderate earthquake, and a strong earthquake might be rated as magnitude 6.3. Because of the logarithmic basis of the scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase in measured amplitude; as an estimate of energy, each whole number step in the magnitude scale corresponds to the release of about 31 times more energy than the amount associated with the preceding whole number value.

At first, the Richter Scale could be applied only to the records from instruments of identical manufacture. Now, instruments are carefully calibrated with respect to each other. Thus, magnitude can be computed from the record of any calibrated seismograph.

Earthquakes with magnitude of about 2.0 or less are usually call microearthquakes; they are not commonly felt by people and are generally recorded only on local seismographs. Events with magnitudes of about 4.5 or greater - there are several thousand such shocks annually - are strong enough to be recorded by sensitive seismographs all over the world. Great earthquakes, such as the 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska, have magnitudes of 8.0 or higher. On the average, one earthquake of such size occurs somewhere in the world each year. Although the Richter Scale has no upper limit, the largest known shocks have had magnitudes in the 8.8 to 8.9 range. Recently, another scale called the moment magnitude scale has been devised for more precise study of great earthquakes. The Richter Scale is not used to express damage. An earthquake in a densely populated area which results in many deaths and considerable damage may have the same magnitude as a shock in a remote area that does nothing more than frighten the wildlife. Large-magnitude earthquakes that occur beneath the oceans may not even be felt by humans. From a scientific standpoint, the Richter scale is based on seismic records while the Mercalli is based on observable data which can be subjective. Thus, the Richter scale is considered scientifically more objective and therefore more accurate.

The USGS records and analyzes earthquake data from around the world. The average number of earthquakes that occur annually worldwide are described in the following chart.

Descriptor  Magnitude   Average Annually
Great   8 and higher  1
 Major  7-7.9 18 
 Strong  6-6.9 120 
 Moderate  5-5.9 800 
 Light 4-4.9  6200 
 Minor 3-3.9   49000
 Very Minor  < 3.0 about 9,000 a day 

The USGS focuses its earthquake research on world geographical regions, not regions defined by political boundaries. Therefore, statistics on earthquakes occurring in the United States from 1990-1999 are not readily available. However, a Madeleine Zirbes, a geologist from the USGS, prepared the following statistics for use by ICOM.

1990 Earthquakes
   Total  World  Continental US  Alaska  Hawaii  California  Total US
 9.0 to 9.9 0  0 0 0  0  0 0
 8.0 to 8.9  0  0 0 0 0 0 0 
 7.0 to 7.9  12  12 0 0  0 0 0 
 6.0 to 6.9  115  112 0  2 0 1 3 
5.0 to 5.9   1635  1563  12 50  2  8


 4.0 to 4.9 4493  4210   38  180  10 55   283
 3.0 to 3.9  2457  1836  148  170  0  303 621 
 2.0 to 2.9 2364   1953 82   40  0 289   411
 1.0 to 1.9  474  473  0  0  0 1   1
0.1 to 0.9   0  0 0   0  0 0   0
 No Magnitude 5062   4185  12  859  0  6  877
Total   16612  14344  292 1301  12  663  2268 

1991 Earthquakes
   Total  World  Continental US  Alaska  Hawaii  California  Total US
 9.0 to 9.9 0  0 0 0  0  0 0
 8.0 to 8.9  0  0 0 0 0 0 0 
 7.0 to 7.9  11  10 0 0  0 1 1 
 6.0 to 6.9  105  99 1  3 0 2 6 
5.0 to 5.9   1469  1419  6 40  2  2


 4.0 to 4.9 4372  4117   21  185  7 42   255
 3.0 to 3.9  2952  2251  135  252  3  311 701 
 2.0 to 2.9 2927   2372 78   306  0 171   555
 1.0 to 1.9  801  798 43  545  0 11   599
0.1 to 0.9   1  1 0   0  0 0   0
 No Magnitude 3878   3279  12  859  0  6  877
Total   16516  14346  285 1331  12  542  2170 


1992 Earthquakes
   Total  World  Continental US  Alaska  Hawaii  California  Total US
 9.0 to 9.9 0  0 0 0  0  0 0
 8.0 to 8.9  1  1 0 0 0 0 0 
 7.0 to 7.9  23  21 0 0  0 2 2 
 6.0 to 6.9  104  95 0  5 0 4 9 
5.0 to 5.9   1541  1457 9 56  0  19


 4.0 to 4.9 5196  4792   44  191  4 165   404
 3.0 to 3.9  4643  2930  154  339  0  1220 1713 
 2.0 to 2.9 3068   2072 72   366  0 558   996
 1.0 to 1.9  887  882 3  0  0 2   5
0.1 to 0.9   2  2 0   0  0 0   0
 No Magnitude 4084   3716  22  340  0  6  368
Total   19549  15968  304 1297  4  1976  3581 


1993 Earthquakes
   Total  World  Continental US  Alaska  Hawaii  California  Total US
 9.0 to 9.9 0  0 0 0  0  0 0
 8.0 to 8.9  1  1 0 0 0 0 0 
 7.0 to 7.9  15  15 0 0  0 0 0 
 6.0 to 6.9  141  132 2  6 0 1 9 
5.0 to 5.9   1449  1380  6 54  1  8


 4.0 to 4.9 5034  4765   29  187  4 49   269
 3.0 to 3.9  4263  3148  213  376  2  524 1115 
 2.0 to 2.9 5390   4383 149   414  0 444   1007
 1.0 to 1.9  1177  1170 7 0  0 0   7
0.1 to 0.9   9  9 0   0  0 0   0
 No Magnitude 3997   33540 26  430  0  1  457
Total   21476  18543  432 1467  7  1027  2933 

1994 Earthquakes
   Total  World  Continental US  Alaska  Hawaii  California  Total US
 9.0 to 9.9 0  0 0 0  0  0 0
 8.0 to 8.9  2  2 0 0 0 0 0 
 7.0 to 7.9  13  12 0 0  0 1 1 
 6.0 to 6.9  161  156 1  2 0 2 5 
5.0 to 5.9   1542  1475  9 41  1  16


 4.0 to 4.9 4544  4213   70  154  1 106   331
 3.0 to 3.9  5000  3457  250  350  0  943 1543 
 2.0 to 2.9 5369   4175 195   344  0 655   1194
 1.0 to 1.9  779  777 1 0  0 1   2
0.1 to 0.9   17  17 0   0  0 0   0
 No Magnitude 1944   1500 33  402  0  0  435
Total   19371  15784  559 1293  2  1724  3578 


1995 Earthquakes
   Total  World  Continental US  Alaska  Hawaii  California  Total US
 9.0 to 9.9 0  0 0 0  0  0 0
 8.0 to 8.9  3  3 0 0 0 0 0 
 7.0 to 7.9  22  22 0 0  0 1 1 
 6.0 to 6.9  185  178 0  5 0 2 7
5.0 to 5.9   1327  1278  3 36  0  10


 4.0 to 4.9 8140  7785   35  258  7 55   355
 3.0 to 3.9  5002  3952  144  441  0  465 1050 
 2.0 to 2.9 3838   3018 80   454  0 286   820
 1.0 to 1.9  645  645 0 0  0 0   0
0.1 to 0.9   19  19 0   0  0 0   0
 No Magnitude 1826   1382 16  422  0 6  444
Total   21007  18282  278 1616  7  824  2725 

1996 Earthquakes
   Total  World  Continental US  Alaska  Hawaii  California  Total US
 9.0 to 9.9 0  0 0 0  0  0 0
 8.0 to 8.9  1  1 0 0 0 0 0 
 7.0 to 7.9  21  19 0 2  0 0 2 
 6.0 to 6.9  160  154 0  5 0 1 6 
5.0 to 5.9   1223  114 5 98  0  6


 4.0 to 4.9 8794  8173   23  458  92 48   621
 3.0 to 3.9  4869  3827  119  517  49  357 1042 
 2.0 to 2.9 2388   1736 52   384  0 216   652
 1.0 to 1.9  295  295 0 0  0 0   0
0.1 to 0.9   1  1 0   0  0 0   0
 No Magnitude 2186   1811 21  351  3  0  375
Total   19938  16131  220 1815  144  628  2807 

1997 Earthquakes
   Total  World  Continental US  Alaska  Hawaii  California  Total US
 9.0 to 9.9 0  0 0 0  0  0 0
 8.0 to 8.9  0  0 0 0 0 0 0 
 7.0 to 7.9  20  20 0 0  0 1 1 
 6.0 to 6.9  125  119 0  6 0 0 6 
5.0 to 5.9   1118  1055  3 49  1  10


 4.0 to 4.9 7938  7576   20  275  3 64   362
 3.0 to 3.9  4467  3395  117  463  2  490 1072 
 2.0 to 2.9 2397   1638 69   413  0 277   759
 1.0 to 1.9  388  386 2 0  0 0   2
0.1 to 0.9   4  4 0   0  0 0   0
 No Magnitude 3415   2840 26  546  0 3  575
Total   19872  17033  237 1752  6  844  2839 


1998 Earthquakes
   Total  World  Continental US  Alaska  Hawaii  California  Total US
 9.0 to 9.9 0  0 0 0  0  0 0
 8.0 to 8.9  2  2 0 0 0 0 0 
 7.0 to 7.9  14  14 0 0  0 0 0 
 6.0 to 6.9  113  110 0  3 0 0 3 
5.0 to 5.9   979  917  3 52  0  7


 4.0 to 4.9 7303  6892   34  309  12 56   411
 3.0 to 3.9  5945  4892  144  447  2  460 1053 
 2.0 to 2.9 4091   3349 72   407  0 263   742
 1.0 to 1.9  805  805 0 0  0 0   0
0.1 to 0.9   10  10 0   0  0 0   0
 No Magnitude 2426   1918 33  471  0 4  508
Total   21688  18909  286 1689  14  790  2779 

1999 Earthquakes*
   Total  World  Continental US  Alaska  Hawaii  California  Total US
 9.0 to 9.9 0  0 0 0  0  0 0
 8.0 to 8.9  0  0 0 0 0 0 0 
 7.0 to 7.9  23  20 0 2  0 1 3 
 6.0 to 6.9  113  108 0  5 0 0 5 
5.0 to 5.9   996  945  3 37  1  10


 4.0 to 4.9 7021  6662   25  225  10 99   359
 3.0 to 3.9  5447  4087  197  390  1  773 1361 
 2.0 to 2.9 4185   3359 99   316  0 411   826
 1.0 to 1.9  711  711 0 0  0 0   0
0.1 to 0.9   5  5 0   0  0 0   0
 No Magnitude 2130   1751 23  351  0 5  379
Total   20631  17647  347 1326  12  1299  2984 

*Data still in review

The United States has one of the worst fire problems in the industrial world. The United States Fire Administration, in its 1996 annual report, Fire in the United States, states:
"The fire problem in the US, on a per capita basis, is one of the worst in the industrial world. Thousands of Americans die each year in fires, tens of thousands of people are injured, and property losses reach billions of dollars. The annual losses from floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters combined in the United States average just a fraction of the losses from fires. The public in general, the media, and local governments, however, are generally unaware of the magnitude and seriousness of fire to communities and the country" (1).

Two examples of large-loss fires are the Southern California wildfires of the fall of 1993 and the Oakland East Bay Hills fire of October 1991. The wildfires resulted in over $800 million damage, while the Oakland fires caused damage over $1 billion. While these losses are staggering, "most of the losses from fire are spread over the 2 million fires that are reported each year; [thus,] the total loss is far more than the impression many people have of it from the anecdotal reporting of local fires in the media" (28).

The National Fire Data Center of the US Fire Administration publishes a 10-year statistical overview of the fires in the US, with focus on the latest year in which data were available at the time of preparation; 1996 is the most current report available. Beyond providing exceptional fire-related statistics, this report "arms the fire service and others with information that motivates corrective action, sets priorities, targets specific fire programs, serves as a model for state or local analyses of fire data, and provides a baseline for evaluating programs" (1). The Data Center uses data collected through the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), the United States' most thorough and accurate fire information resource. The NFIRS is a voluntary system that is used in an average of 40 states and Washington, DC. More than 13,000 fire stations report the fire incidents that occur within their jurisdiction; this total is more than 38% of the 33,000 US fire departments (15).

The National Fire Data Center uses the information the NFIRS reports to analyze the enormous fire problem in the United States. The Data Center reports that the United States averages, each year:

5,030 deaths
1000 firefighter deaths
28,300 civilian injuries
54,500 firefighter injuries
2.1 million fires reported to fire departments annually
$9.8 billion property loss

The property loss of $9.8 billion is an average of the direct loss caused by fires. The total cost of fire to society is staggering, over $100 billion per year. This figure includes the cost of adding fire protection to buildings, the cost of paid fire departments, the equivalent cost of volunteer fire departments ($20 billion annually), the cost of insurance overhead, the direct cost of fire-related losses, the medical cost of fire injuries, and the other direct and indirect costs (29). This is on the order of 1 to 2 percent of the gross domestic product, which was $7.66 trillion in 1996 (29).

Furthermore, deaths from other types of disasters have tended to be vastly fewer than from fires -- on the order of 200 per year in disasters versus nearly 5,000 in fires (28). However, the death rate per fire in the US is much higher than the yearly reported fire death rates in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and most of the countries in Western Europe. The US fire death rate is 2 to 3 times of that of several European nations and at least 20% higher than most. For example, the average US fire death rate for 1993-1995 was 18.7 deaths per million population. Switzerland's rate was 5.5 per million, Canada 15.0. In fact, of the 22 industrial nations that are examined by the World Fire Statistics Centre, the US rate was higher than all but two -- Finland and Hungary. One reason for this disparity is that the US emphasizes the use of advanced fire suppression technology and fire service delivery mechanisms, while other nations emphasize fire prevention (2).

The National Fire Data Center reports that the leading causes of all fires in 1996 were arson, open flame, and cooking (3). The Data Center analyzes the fire data in two groups: residential and non-residential structures. Residential structures are homes, apartments, mobile homes, etc. Non-residential properties include industrial and commercial properties, public assembly properties, institutions (hospitals, nursing homes, prisons), educational establishments (preschool through university), mobile properties, and properties that are vacant or under construction (113).

Museums and other cultural institutions are non-residential structures classified in the Fixed Property Use category. The major divisions, as defined by Brad Pabody of the National Fire Data Center, of the Fixed Property Use classification are:

Public Assembly Property (which includes cultural institutions)
Educational Property
Institutional Property
Residential Property
Store, Office Property
Basic Industry, Utility, Defense Property
Manufacturing Property
Storage Property
Special Property

Public Assembly properties are defined as "places for the congregation or gathering of people for amusement, recreation, social, religious, patriotic, civic, travel, and similar purposes are known as public assembly properties. Such properties are characterized by the presence or potential presence of crowds, with attendant panic hazard in case of fire or other emergency. They are generally open to the public, or may, on occasions, be open to the public. The occupants are present voluntarily and are not ordinarily subject to discipline or control. The are generally able-bodied persons, whose presence is transient in character, and who do not intend to sleep on the premises." Public Assembly properties are divided into:

Fixed Use Amusement, Recreation places
Variable use amusement, recreation places
Churches, funeral parlors
Libraries, Museums, Court Rooms
Eating, drinking places
Passenger terminals
Theaters, studios

Libraries, Museums and Court Rooms are further divided:

Museum, art gallery (included are aquariums and planetariums)
Historic building
Memorial structure, monument
Court room
Legislative hall

In 1996, the Data Center reported 73,325 non-residential fires. Non-residential structures average 8%-9% of all fires, 32%-47% of total fire dollar loss, 12%-14% of all fire injuries, and 5%-8% of all fire deaths (113). Fires, deaths, and injuries peak in non-residential properties in the early afternoon. Dollar losses are highest after hours, which the Data Center attributes to arson. Winter months are the peak period for fires and deaths (heating fires add to the other types of year-round fires) (10).

Arson is by far the leading cause of non-residential fires; three times as many fires are attributed to arson than to any other cause. Furthermore, arson accounts for 28% of the dollar loss and 34% of deaths (120).

The following information is adapted from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Report, Terrorism in the United States.

US Code and FBI define terrorism as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives" (i).

The FBI further describes terrorism as either domestic or international, depending on the origin, base, and objectives of the terrorist organization.
Domestic terrorism is "the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction and whose acts are directed at elements of the US government or its population, in the furtherance of political or social objectives.
International terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence committed by a group or individual, who has some connection to a foreign power or whose activities transcend national boundaries, against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives. (ii)

A terrorist incident is a violent act or an act dangerous to human life in violation of the criminal laws of the United States.
A suspected terrorist incident is a potential act of terrorism in which responsibility cannot be attributed at the time to a known or suspected terrorist group or individual.
A terrorism prevention is a documented instance in which a violent act by a known or suspected terrorist group or individual with the means and a proven propensity for violence is successfully interdicted through investigative activity. (ii)

Although various Executive Orders, Presidential Decision Directives, and congressional statutes address the issue of terrorism, there is no single federal law specifically making terrorism a crime. Terrorists are arrested and convicted under existing criminal statutes. All suspected terrorists placed under arrest are provided access to legal counsel and normal judicial procedure, including Fifth Amendment guarantees

The FBI report, Terrorism in the United States, describes the terrorist attacks against the United States and provides information on terrorist groups and US efforts to combat them. Terrorist attacks against the United States average less than 5 per year.

 Year Number of Terrorist Attacks 
 1990 7
 1991 5 
 1992 3 
1993  4 
 1995 1
 1996 3
 1997 2 

The FBI Bomb Data Center (BDC) collects and reports bombing information to public safety agencies, elected officials, and the interested public. The report reflects the use of explosive and incendiary devices by criminals in the United States. Statistics show criminals are continually using these devices to facilitate unlawful purposes. This places the public and law enforcement personnel at great risk. The information contained in the report comes from bombing incidents reported in 1997 and its territories. Also presented are statistics regarding hoax devices, recoveries of improvised devices, explosives, and military ordnance. State and local public safety agencies (including over 600 bomb squads) make a significant contribution in reporting these types of incidents to the FBI. In addition, the BDC gathers information from the Postal Inspection Service; Military Explosive Ordnance Disposal units; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

US BOMBINGS 1990-1997
 Year  Actual Bombings  Attempted Bombings
 1990  1198 384 
 1991  1974 525 
1992   2493  496
1993  2418   562
1994  2461  702 
 1995  1968 609 
 1996  1884  689
1997   1590  627

United States cultural institutions are not unaffected by the numerous disasters that strike the country each year. As yet, however, a comprehensive resource on the effects of disasters on cultural institutions does not exist. Therefore, the ICOM questionnaire response team developed a one-page survey designed to ascertain what type of damage, if any, the institution suffered, the extent of the damage, and the response organizations utilized for recovery. The survey and its cover letter are enclosed in this report.

The team mailed the survey to the 2,893 AAM institutional members on February 25, 2000. Within the next six weeks, 796 institutions responded, a 27.5% response rate. Thirteen additional institutions whose disasters were published in newspapers or other media were also included, bringing the total number of institutions to 809. The resulting data was then entered into a FileMaker Pro relational database. The database is designed to facilitate future entries as well as Web publishing.

The survey results show the devastating effects disasters have on cultural institutions. Of the 809 institutions in the database, 303 (37.5%) had at least one disaster between 1990-2000. Thirteen respondents reported damage by disasters before 1990. Therefore, 494 (61.1%) were not affected by disasters. [For the remainder of this report, numbers and percentages will reflect disasters occurring between 1990-2000, as requested in the ICOM questionnaire.] Some institutions had more than one disaster; the total number of disasters that affected museums was 384.

 Type of Disaster  Number of Institutions*
 Fire  11
 Flood 48 
 Hurricane  49
 Extreme Heat or Cold  12
 Severe Thunderstorm 32 
 Landslide  0
 Tornado  9
 Earthquake  4
 Lightning  17
 Drought  5
 Environmental Disaster  3
 Terrorist  1
 Riot  1
 Vandalism  48
 Other 75 
*Some institutions may have had more than one of the same type of disaster (e.g. vandalism). In this case, the institution is only counted once.

Seventy-five museums were affected by a disaster not listed on the survey sheet. Examples of disasters in category "Other" include:

Accidental Helon release
Broken pipe/water main
Building collapse
Collapse of roof/ceiling
High winds
Ice storm
Insect infestation
Power failure
Volcanic ash fall


 Disaster  Plan  No Plan
 Fire 4   9
 Flood  26  22
 Hurricane  38 16 
 Extreme Heat or Cold 6  6 
 Severe Thunderstorm  19  12
 Landslide 0  0 
 Tornado  3 5 
 Earthquake  4  2
 Lightning 9   7
 Drought 2  3 
 Environmental Disaster  2 1
 Terrorist  0 0
 Riot  1 0 
 Vandalism 25  21 
 Other  4  40
 Total  143 144 
 Percent of Museums w/Disasters  47%  48%


 Disaster  Minimum  Maximum
 Fire  $3,493,000 $5,730,000  
 Flood  $2,266,000  $5,010,000
 Hurricane  $2,013,000  $4,130,000
 Extreme Heat or Cold  $295,000  $850,000
 Severe Thunderstorm  $376,000  $1,110,000
 Landslide  $0 $0 
 Tornado  $183,000 $480,000 
 Earthquake $514,000  $1,190,000 
 Lightning  $199,000  $640,000
 Drought  $53,000  $280,000
 Environmental Disaster  $11,000 $60,000 
 Terrorist NA  NA 
 Riot $1,000   $10,000 
 Vandalism  $105,000  $700,000
 Other  $3,444,000 $6,640,000  
 Total  $12,953,000  $26,830,000
 Average per Institution (Total/#of Inst. with Disasters)  $42,749  $88,547

While the issue of the protection of cultural property is one of concern at the national, regional, and state levels, currently, no national organization is charged with the specific role of the safeguard and evacuation of cultural property. This responsibility is addressed by institutional specific organizations and informal, localized agreements.

For example, the National Park Service maintains two event teams that protect National Park areas. The Special Events Team (SET) is a tactical law enforcement response team focused primarily on law events, while the Incident Command System (ICS), is an all-risk team that responds to a myriad of crises: law events as well as natural disasters. Both teams secure and protect curatorial collections from damage. The SET protected the Department of Interior building and collections during the World Trade Organization meeting to prevent riot damage. Both are made up of federal law enforcement officers and are activated 24 hours after an event begins. The teams are focused primarily on NPS sites, but will help other federal land management agencies when requested.

Non-federal institutions that require assistance protecting and evacuating their cultural property rely on loosely structured arrangements within their region or state. They may pool and share resources or offer transportation, storage, or other services to other museums in the collaborative network.

Furthermore, cultural institutions may obtain the assistance of municipal, state, and federal emergency management agencies. These agencies generally focus their attention and resources on the recovery of private parties but may provide organizations with pre-disaster assistance. For example, a state emergency management agency may procure the services of the National Guard to sandbag an institution in the path of an imminent flood. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mainly provides cultural institutions with recovery assistance but also seeks to minimize disaster damage by providing mitigation services (e.g. creating and enforcing effective building codes, providing funds for disaster prevention, etc). FEMA also fulfills its mission ("to reduce loss of life and property and protect our nation's critical infrastructure from all types of hazards through a comprehensive, risk-based, emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery") by providing disaster-affected museums with government and private cultural resource experts to advise and assist in disaster recovery.

The absence of a formal organization or national policy that addresses the safeguard and evacuation of cultural property does not indicate, however, a disregard of the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of the United States. The National Task Force on Emergency Response, formed in 1994, is a group of more than 80 national cultural and historical service organizations and federal agencies. Their overriding goal is to ensure that in future disasters, cultural institutions better anticipate problems and quickly find the help necessary to speed recovery. In 1997, the National Task Force and the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property designed, published, and distributed over 48,000 Emergency Response and Salvage Wheels. These wheels provide fundamental information and procedures to institutions affected by disasters. Many national, regional, and state museum and library organizations, as well as regional conservation alliances, work to develop and provide disaster training for cultural institutions. Topics in training sessions include the development of a practical emergency preparedness plan, evacuation procedures, and disaster recovery steps. In this manner, cultural heritage institutions become their own resource for the safeguard and evacuation of cultural property.


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