Mapping Danger

Most dangerous parts of America revealed by ‘Death Map’

17 December 2008 @ 12:41 pm EST

A new map created by university researchers shows where Americans are most likely to die from natural hazards.

Death Map

The map shows the risk of death from natural hazards by county. Red areas are more likely than average, and blue less likely.

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People living in the South especially around the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts have a much higher mortality rate. The areas by the Great Lakes and the urban Northeast in America typically have less. The west has more areas that are more dangerous than the east but less dangerous than the South.

The safest place, in terms of protection against the forecast of nature, are parts of the Midwest or cities in the Northeast.

"This work will enable research and emergency management practitioners to examine hazard deaths through a geographic lens," researcher Susan Cutter of the University of South Carolina, Columbia told LiveScience. "Using this as a tool to identify areas with higher than average hazard deaths can justify allocation of resources to these areas with the goal of reducing loss of life."

Cutter and Kevin Borden, also of the University of South Carolina, Columbia, found that some natural hazards were more deadly than others over the years.

"It is the chronic hazards like severe summer weather and severe winter weather and heat that are contributing the majority of the hazard fatalities, not fatalities associated with things like earthquakes or hurricanes," Cutter said. She added people and officials tend to be more prepared for big hurricanes and tornadoes, which could partly explain the lower mortality compared with everyday occurrences.

The study will be published by the International Journal of Health Geographics. The data derives from a database of 3,070 county-sized areas from 1970-2004, from which Hawaii and Alaska were excluded. The period under study did not include 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, which claimed more than 1,500 lives.

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