Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and other natural hazards cause devastating damage in the United States and throughout the world. Yet despite years of research, more Americans are now susceptible to natural hazards than ever before. In the first book to offer an integrative model for the study of natural hazards, Risa Palm argues that researchers and planners need to understand not only the physical environment, societal structure, and the processes of individual decision-making but also how each of these factors interacts with the others. Palm offers a detailed account of how specific hazards affect human settlements and how human settlements sometimes help bring natural hazards about. She examines how societies have answered the question, "How safe is safe enough?" And she discusses how considerations of hazards affects decision to locate human activities. After surveying theoretical approaches from the 19th century to the present, she sets forth a new integrative framework for hazards study and shows how to apply it to the study of a wide range of environmental hazards, with special emphasis on earthquakes and the California housing market.