"Most loss of life and property in earthquakes is the result of damage to or collapse of buildings or other structures from strong shaking. Key to reducing such losses are recordings of structural response to damaging levels of shaking. Using these recordings, engineers can better design new buildings and strengthen existing buildings to survive future quakes. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and cooperators are engaged in a national effort to acquire these critically needed strong-motion measurements in earthquake-prone urban areas."
U.S. Geological Survey: http://www.usgs.gov/