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The U.S. and Japan are seen as the leaders in earthquake preparedness. But a spike in seismic activity the past few years has even tiny countries like Nicaragua busy prepping for the worst. Nicaragua may be the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere behind Haiti, but it is also one of the best prepared to deal with earthquakes – before and after they happen. “Nicaragua is really pro-active in monitoring earthquake activity,” John Vidale, a seismologist at the University of Washington, told Fox News Latino. “They have a really good seismologist and are prepared for the eventuality of a major earthquake.” Nicaragua’s recent quakes – the Central American nation was hit by three earthquakes last week – along with a magnitude 8.2 quake in northern Chile and magnitude 5.1 tremor that shook southern California in March, have capped off a busy decade of seismic activity. That activity has scientists closely examining movements of the world’s fault lines and lawmakers in nations from South America to Asia to the United States wondering how prepared they are for a major shake.  “California is pretty safe, and Alaska is doing pretty well,” said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the National Earthquake Information Center of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). “Chile and Japan, however, are probably the best prepared nations in terms of how their buildings are constructed and how they respond to an earthquake.”

The U.S. Congress created the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) in 1977 with the aim of helping to reduce the impact of temblors and mitigate the damage caused by them. Today, the program combines four agencies – the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation and the USGS – and its main goal is to research and develop technology that tracks earthquakes to speed up warning times and reduce damage. Cities and countries ramp up preparation after a major earthquake. But what worries many critics and U.S. lawmakers – including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – is that once big events have passed from recent memory, such as the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, people then “ignore high-consequence, low-probability events,” Dennis Mileti, a professor emeritus of sociology with the University of Colorado, Boulder, told Retro Report. And even though earthquakes in the U.S. aren’t as frequent as those in Chile and Japan, states like Alaska, California and Washington are also at great risk for a major seismic event. California, which averages 27 minor quakes a day and suffered a 5.1 earthquake in March, is particularly vulnerable given the proximity of major cities to the coastline. “There is a lot of movement going on there,” Blakeman said. “Luckily California is pretty well prepared.” More