As many as 16 states are at high risk of damaging earthquakes, but 42 in all are vulnerable to some degree, the U.S. Geological Survey has concluded in an update of its seismic hazard maps.

Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming are the states at highest risk for property-damage-level quakes within 50 years, the USGS said in a July 17 government blog posting that explains its seismic hazard changes.

In other words, earthquake hazards are particularly high on “the west coast, intermountain west” and in certain regions of the central and eastern United States, the USGS explained.

So how does the seismic mapping help the property/casualty insurance industry? The USGS explained that the maps help determine insurance rates in vulnerable areas, inform plans for emergency preparedness, and can assist property owners in making their home or building more durable in the wake of an earthquake. As well, the maps help municipalities both establish and update building codes.

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program is a partnership of four federal agencies established by Congress to reduce property and life risks, and the USGS said its hazard map update is its contribution to this effort. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Science Foundation also participate in the program.