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Circular 1351

Prepared in cooperation with Yellowstone National Park, the University of Utah, the University of Wyoming, the Idaho Geological Survey, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, the Wyoming State Geological Survey, and UNAVCO

Protocols for Geologic Hazards Response by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

By the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (4 MB)Executive Summary

The Yellowstone Plateau hosts an active volcanic system, with subterranean magma (molten rock), boiling, pressurized waters, and a variety of active faults with significant earthquake hazards. Within the next few decades, light-to-moderate earthquakes and steam explosions are certain to occur. Volcanic eruptions are less likely, but are ultimately inevitable in this active volcanic region. This document summarizes protocols, policies, and tools to be used by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) during earthquakes, hydrothermal explosions, or any geologic activity that could lead to a volcanic eruption.

As needed, YVO will be an advisor within the National Incident Management System. The YVO Branch within the Plans Section of the Incident Command will consist of two prescribed groups (Monitoring and Information). The two groups and their subsidiary teams form a scalable system to respond to a variety of scenarios of geologic and volcanic unrest. The YVO response will be led by the YVO Branch Chief (also known as the Scientist-in-Charge) with the assistance of group supervisors and team leaders.

Formal alerts and information statements will be issued by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in conjunction with YVO member agencies and through standard telephone and Internet “calldown” lists. External communications will be coordinated by the public information team leader, in association with any Joint Information Center set up through the Incident Command. Internal communications will be handled through a computerized log system that can be used as an archive for public and non-public documents, and to provide a forum for discussion by observatory personnel and collaborators.

The response plan will be evaluated and updated every three years by the observatory and will be available through the YVO and USGS public websites. The calldown list will be updated at least once per year and placed on the internal log system.

First posted, 2010

Revised November 5, 2014

Previous version of this report

For additional information, contact:
Contact YVO
Volcano Science Center, Yellowstone Volcano Observatory
U.S. Geological Survey
345 Middlefield Road, MS 910
Menlo Park, CA 94025

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Suggested citation:

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, 2014, Protocols for geologic hazards response by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (ver. 2.0, November 2014): U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1351, 16 p.,

ISSN 2330-5703 (online)


Executive Summary

Introduction and Scope

Geological Unrest, Alert Levels, and Information Products

YVO and the National Incident Management System

Event Response

Alert Notification Scheme and Decision Criteria

Scientific Oversight and Information Sharing

Scenarios of Unrest and Initiation of Event Response

Summary and Protocols for Updating this Plan

Glossary of Terminology and Acronyms

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

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