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The United States Congress, in 1977, enacted the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act, in recognition of the fact that earthquakes pose the greatest potential threat of any single-event natural hazard confronting the nation. The Act directed the President of the United States to "establish and maintain an effective earthquake hazards reduction program."
Congress then created the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, which gave lead responsibility to the federal government to provide direction, coordination, research and other support to efforts aimed at earthquake hazard mitigation and preparedness. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were assigned specific roles. Recommendations were included on the duties of state governments, local governments, private organizations and individuals.
While national attention focused on high-risk areas such as California, which has visible surface faults and frequent earthquakes, pioneering research on the danger of earthquakes in the central United States was being conducted by the late Dr. Otto Nuttli of St. Louis University. Dr. Nuttli's research provided the conclusive evidence that prompted the seven states to form CUSEC in October of 1983. FEMA, which had been assigned by Congress the responsibility for coordination of regional earthquake hazard reduction programs, created the Central United States Earthquake Preparedness Project (CUSEPP) to help the states in planning preparedness/mitigation, response and recovery. A contract between FEMA and the seven states was awarded on April 11, 1984, and the foundation for CUSEC was complete. The primary mission of the organization, as set forth by the Board of Directors, is "...the reduction of deaths, injuries, property damage and economic losses resulting from earthquakes in the central United States".
Basic funding was initiated and continues to be provided by FEMA under Cooperative Agreement #EMW-84-C-1671. In addition, Corporate, State and local sponsors participate in the program.
CUSEC was incorporated as a nonprofit entity, formed expressly for "charitable, scientific and educational purposes". More specifically, CUSEC seeks to fulfill the ambitious goals of the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977; planning, public education and mitigation. Authority for CUSEC is vested in the Board of Directors, which is composed of the directors of emergency management from the seven charter member states.