Services for Local Governments and Other Agencies

The Geologic Hazards Program of the UGS helps provide for public safety in Utah by assisting cities, towns, and counties in dealing with geologic hazards. This assistance includes providing emergency response when a hazardous geologic event occurs as well as assisting in site-specific studies to identify potentially hazardous areas prior to development. UGS assistance before, during, and after geologic-hazard events is essential in helping local governments make informed decisions to protect the public from geologic hazards, including life safety, injury, and economic impacts.

Hampton Ridge Landslide Emergency Response, Ogden, Utah. Google Earth images 2013 and 2016.

What Assistance does the Utah Geological Survey Provide?

Geologic Hazards Planning Assistance
Assist in planning, zoning, and permit-approval issues by:

  • Aiding in preparing master plans and ordinances addressing geologic hazards.
  • Preparing maps showing areas subject to geologic hazards (cooperative funding is generally required).
  • Reviewing geologic hazards reports for essential public facilities (police and fire stations, water tanks, schools).

Geologic Hazards Response
Respond immediately during and after geologic hazard events and natural disasters, including earthquakes, landslides, floods, and ground subsidence, to:

  • Advise emergency-response officials.
  • Assess the nature and extent of the hazard.
  • Determine the likelihood for short- and long-term recurrence.
  • Assist in assessing risk.

Wasatch fault (Weber segment) trench investigation.

Using Geologic Hazards Information to Reduce Risks and Losses

Many of the geologic processes that shaped Utah’s landscape over the past few million years remain active today. Utah has experienced loss of life and property damage from geologic hazards throughout its history and may expect more in the future. Local governments can reduce both risks and losses if they use geologic hazards information in ordinances and general plans.

Specific procedures adopted by local governments will vary depending on many factors including:

  • Types and characteristics of the geologic hazards present
  • Availability of geologic hazards maps
  • Ability of local government staff, elected/appointed officials, and consultants to understand and use geologic hazards information
  • Potential for new development
  • Community attitudes toward risk

Costs for study and risk reduction are immediate and measurable. Benefits are long-term and uncertain.

Geologic hazards exist in all types of terrain. Usually, their potential can be identified prior to development and measures can be taken to prevent damage. These measures may include avoiding construction in hazardous areas, engineering buildings and other facilities to withstand the effects of hazards, erecting structures to protect buildings and other facilities from hazards, and grading the site to reduce risks. Hazard mitigation, however, is impossible without hazard recognition. Failure to recognize and do something about geologic hazards prior to development has caused personal tragedy and property loss in Utah.

Guidelines for the Geologic Investigation of Geologic Hazards and Preparing Engineering-Geology Reports, with a Suggested Approach to Geologic-Hazard Ordinances in Utah

Who is Liable for Damage?


  • Most policies do not cover damage from geologic hazards.
  • Few owners purchase appropriate supplemental insurance.
  • Typically, only flood and earthquake-related hazards are insurable.

Property developer, contractor, designer, or geological consultant?

  • They are often hard to locate or no longer liable (statute of limitations).
  • They may be out of business.

Public Agency?

  • Development approvals and permits were issued.
  • They are easy to locate and always present.
  • They are often considered a “deep pocket,” but few local governments have extra funds.
  • Generally, a public agency is not liable due to governmental immunity and relying on licensed professionals for information.

Building safely in areas with geologic hazards requires extra care and vigilance. Including geologic hazards maps in ordinances and general plans is an important first step, along with requiring investigation of geologic hazards, depending on the site. Investigation results should be used to modify development plans to reduce risk to an acceptable level and identify long-term maintenance needs, resulting in fewer deaths, injuries, private property losses, and costs to taxpayers.

External Links

Utah Professional Licensing

The State of Utah licenses geologists, engineers, architects, contractors, and others to protect the public health, welfare, and safety.

Utah Seismic Safety Commission

As one of three primary state agencies of the Utah Earthquake Program, the Utah Seismic Safety Commission provides expertise and staff to the 15-member volunteer state commission that works toward reducing Utah’s earthquake hazards and managing Utah’s earthquake risk.