Legal Framework

Present and historical legal foundations of the Swiss Seismological Service:

2013 Federal council resolution of January, 30, 2013, concerning earthquake precaution measures taken by the federal government for the period 2013 – 2016.
2010 Regulation of October 20, 2010, concerning the organization of ABC- and natural disaster operations.
2010 Regulation of August 18, 2010, concerning warnings and alerts.
2010 Federal council resolution of May 26, 2010, concerning participation in the international research project “Global Earthquake Model (GEM)“
2009 Federal council resolution of February 18th, 2009, concerning the renewal and financing of the Swiss strong-motion monitoring network.
2009 Federal council resolution of April 1, 2009, concerning earthquake precaution measures taken by the federal government for the period 2009 – 2012.
1996 Federal council resolution of September 16, 1996, concerning the verification of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and cooperation with the CTBTO.
1990 Federal council resolution of August 29, 1990, concerning the establishment of two national earthquake monitoring networks.
1956 Federal law (SR 414.113) of December 7, 1956, which established the SED at ETH Zurich and tasked it with monitoring earthquake activity in Switzerland, conducting and publishing research on earthquakes and contributing to international seismological projects.
1914 Federal council resolution of July 8, 1914, concerning the salary of staff working at the seismological service.
1913 Federal law of December 19, 1913, concerning the extension of duties of the Swiss Meteorological Service (Meteorologische Zentralanstalt)

On the basis of these laws and resolutions an agreement between the ETH Zurich and the SED has been reached. This agreement specifies the structure and financing of the SED within the ETH Zurich framework.

Earthquake Surveillance

further Infos:
Earthquake Surveillance »

To monitor earthquake activity in Switzerland and neighbouring areas the SED is mainting a highly sensitive digital measuring network (SDSNet). Because the seismometers used in the system are of extremely high sensitivity in order to detect even the slightest signals accurately the instruments are situated in remote locations and are placed on solid rock. All data is transmitted continuously to the SED data centre in Zurich. There the data is constantly evaluated and archived, by hand if need be. The data stored per year amounts to approximately 700 Gbyte.

Apart from the high-sensitivity SDSNet the SED is maintaining a nation-wide network of strong motion sensors. These are able to record undistorted signals even from very strong earthquakes. They are concentrated in the seismically active regions of Switzerland. High-risk areas, such as the Valais region, Basel or other large agglomerations, are of particular interest. Strong motion sensors were also installed in some large dams across the country in cooperation with the Federal Energy Office and the operators of the large hydro power plants.

Seismic Hazard

Further Infos:
Hazard and Risk »
Statistical Seismology »

The seismic Hazard describes the probability of a seismic event occuring within a certain area and time frame and with a certain amount of associated ground movement – for instance a probability of 10% for an event with 1.5 m/s2 ground acceleration (equivalent to 15% of the earth’s gravitational acceleration) occuring in a span of 50 years.

Seismologists use a variety of tools to determine the seismic hazard, such as regional information about earthquake history, tectonics and geology, historical damage reports and wave propagation models. The development and continuous improvement of the seismic hazard assessment in Switzerland is one of the main tasks of the SED.


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Research »

The SED maintains an active research program, commonly within the framework of scientific projects sponsored by third parties. There are 18 PhD students currently employed at the SED. We are frequently visited by scientists from various institutions as well.


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SED employees give lectures and supervise field courses in the Bachelor and Master programs of the D-ERDW, often in collaboration with other scientists of the Institute of Geophysics, especially the group „Seismology & Geodynamics“.


As the federal centre of expertise for earthquakes the SED sees itself as a competent advisor to authorities as well as industry partners on the subject of seismic monitoring. This concerns projects in the field of geothermics as well as site evaluation for nuclear powerplants and permanent disposal of nuclear waste. In addition the SED supports cantons and municipalities in the planning of micro zonation (seismic hazard assessment).

Public Relations

The public interest in earthquakes is high, especially after a quake was felt in Switzerland or after major quakes occured in other parts of the world. The SED is often called upon to answer questions by the media and the public. Additionally, the SED is attempting to further the awareness about earthquake risk and proper precautions in Switzerland using various means [Connections to focusTerra and the BAFU].