VDAP’s mission is to:

The mission is achieved through international partnerships to respond to volcanic unrest, build monitoring infrastructure, assess hazards and vulnerability, and improve understanding of eruptive processes and forecasting.


In response to the tragic 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz Volcano in Colombia, where more than 23,000 people lost their lives, the USGS and the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) established the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) to help prevent crises from becoming disasters. Over 30 successful years, VDAP has deployed scientific teams in response to 30 major crises, provided technical assistance with hundreds of additional volcanic events, and strengthened response capacity in 12 countries.

At the request of governments of affected countries, VDAP helps foreign colleagues monitor volcanic activity, assess hazards, generate eruption forecasts, and develop early warning capabilities, which help get people out of harm's way. Experienced teams of VDAP scientists can rapidly respond to developing crises worldwide. VDAP teams collaborate in the background, providing support to international partners who are the responsible parties for hazard communication. Between crises, VDAP scientists work with counterparts to build and improve volcano monitoring systems and to conduct joint activities to reduce volcanic risk and improve understanding of volcanic hazards.

Read more about the 30 years of VDAP on the OFDA website.

VDAP Activities

Highlights from VDAP's History

1985 Tragedy in Colombia
Leads to Creation of VDAP

Aerial view of Armero destroyed by lahars from Nevado del
Ruiz volcano, Colombia, on November 13, 1985.

More than 23,000 people were killed in and around Armero and when lahars swept down from the erupting Nevado del Ruiz volcano in November 1985. Less than a year after this disaster, the USGS and OFDA put together a team of volcano specialists to provide rapid assistance to other countries in cases of volcanic crisis.

1991 Success at Pinatubo
Validates VDAP Concept

Aerial view of pyroclastic flow deposits from the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991.

The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo was the second largest eruption of the 20th Century. Using tools and techniques developed at Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes in the 1980s, a combined Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and VDAP team was able to accurately forecast the major eruption and, working with Philippine civil defense and U.S. authorities at Clark Air Force Base, move people and property out of harm's way. Five years after its founding, the VDAP concept was fully validated.

2008 Response in Colombia Saves Lives

Huila volcano, Colombia, on 20 Feb 2007, two days after the initial phreatic explosion

When Nevado del Huila volcano became active in 2007, VDAP assisted Colombia's Instituto Colombiano de Geologìa y Minerìa (INGEOMINAS) to improve real-time monitoring and develop an effective alerting systems that would make a quick evacuation of the area possible. On November 20, 2008 an eruption began at 21:45, and thanks to an effective response by INGEOMINAS, more than 4,000 people were quickly evacuated from the threatened town of Belalcázar by 22:05 and no one from the town was killed when a giant lahar swept through part of town at 22:20.

Map of VDAP Responses since 1987

The map below shows the locations of VDAP responses since 1987.

map with triangles showing where VDAP has worked from 1987-2009 Fogo (Cape Verde Islands), Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, (D.R.O. Congo), Merapi (Indonesia), Mount Pinatubo (Philippines), Mayon (Philippines), Rabaul Caldera (Papua New Guinea), Popocatapetl (Mexico), Colima (Mexico), Pacaya (Guatemala), Cerro Negro (Nicaragua), Turrialba (Costa Rica), Guagua Pichincha (Ecuador), Tungurahua (Ecuador), Hudson (Chile), Sabancaya (Peru), Galeras (Colombia), Huila (Colombia), Unrest in SW Dominica, and Soufriere Hills (Montserrat)