When it comes to disasters, Georgia's the safest place in the South

Georgia is the least disaster-prone state in the South, and one of the least disaster-prone places nationwide, according to five decades of federal government data analyzed by the Washington Post.

Since 1964, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been tracking disaster declarations -- fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanos, mudslides and more -- by county.

Compared to its neighboring states, Georgia counties are markedly more calm, with a majority experiencing fewer than 10 disasters in the last 50 years and no single county reporting more than 15, according to FEMA. This while coastal New Orelans and the Florida panhandle often experienced between 20-30 disasters in the same time period.

Statewide, metro Atlanta counties reported more disasters than the rest of Georgia, with severe storms being the most common (as they are across the country).

Fulton County topped the list, with 14 disasters reported. At the other end, Walton County reported seven.

There are some caveats, starting with the word "disaster" itself.

"As you might suspect, there are specific rules about when and how a disaster gets declared," wrote the Post's Christopher Ingraham. "For our purposes, it's important that a state governor must first request a federal disaster declaration applying to one or more counties, and then the president must approve it following review. So in some ways a disaster declaration is just as much a political phenomenon as a natural one. ...

"Does this mean that the weather is simply milder [in states such as Georgia], or that for various political and cultural reasons governors in these states are less likely to request disaster aid than their peers in neighboring states?"

Disasters can come in many shapes, Ingraham wrote: President Bush declared a state of emergency to provide enough funds to prep for the massive crowds traveling to the nation's capital for President Obama's 2009 inauguration.

Most recently, in February 2014, Gov. Deal requested an extension of a massive federal disaster declaration on the eve of a wave of crippling winter weather, itself in the wake of a crippling January storm.

Thanks to frequent fires, it's Southern California that sees the most disaster declarations, according to FEMA: Los Angeles County has seen 53 since 1964; and three of its neighboring counties make it into the top five of most diaster-prone places.

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