Maps showing volcanic hazard zones on the island of Hawaii were first prepared in 1974 by Donal Mullineaux and Donald Peterson of the U.S. Geological Survey and were revised in 1987. The current map divides the island into zones that are ranked from 1 through 9 based on the probability of coverage by lava flows. Other direct hazards from eruptions, such as tephra fallout and ground cracking and settling, are not specifically considered on this map; however, these hazards also tend to be greatest in the areas of highest hazard from lava flows.
Hazard zones from lava flows are based chiefly on the location and frequency of both historic and prehistoric eruptions. "Historic eruptions" include those for which there are written records, beginning in the early 1800's, and those that are known from the oral traditions of the Hawaiians. Our knowledge of prehistoric eruptions is based on geologic mapping and dating of the old flows of each volcano. The hazard zones also take into account the larger topographic features of the volcanoes that will affect the distribution of lava flows. Finally, any hazard assessment is based on the assumption that future eruptions will be similar to those in the past.