In 1990, at the start of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) began to target a small set of high risk volcanoes, Decade Volcanoes, for intensive, international, interdisciplinary work to improve and demonstrate tools for volcanic disaster prevention. Why focus work on just a few volcanoes, working with people whom we might not even know? Because there is an exciting and creative synergism in teams with varied expertise and ideas outside our own. Given limited human and funding resources, we can maximize our return, both scientifically and in terms of real disaster prevention by focusing our effort on team projects.

Located in southwestern Guatemala, Santa María is the most notorious volcano in Central America. In October 1902, Santa María was the site of one of the Earth's ten largest historic eruptions. The eruption caused thousands of deaths. Since 1922 volcanic dome extrusion has been occurring from a vent called Santiaguito, located on the SW flank of Santa María. In 1929, pyroclastic flows, apparently resulting from the collapse of the active dome, flowed more than 10 km south of Santiaguito, causing hundreds of deaths and extensive devastation of villages and plantations. Santiaguito has remained continuously active since, and produces vertical ash eruptions, avalanches, lava flows, pyroclastic flows, mudflows and other hazards that are of concern to rapidly growing populations and commercial development that surrounds the volcano. Because it represents a variety of volcanic hazards, because of its consistent activity, because of its location in a populated region and because of the presence of local organizations dedicated to the mitigation of volcanic disasters, Santa Marías been designated as one of 13 Decade Volcanoes in the world by IAVCEI.

On November 7-13, 1993 an international workshop on Santa MarMaría was held in Quezaltenango, Guatemala. This workshop included 73 professionals representing 13 countries and many interdisciplinary aspects of volcanic hazard mitigation. The participants accepted a charge to develop an integrated plan for preventing volcanic hazards at Santa María. They divided into 9 teams, formed to focus on particular aspects of the overall theme. Each of the teams had diverse representation and wrote their own objectives, listed methodologies and made recommendations for research efforts that would contribute to the development of an effective plan for hazard mitigation. The teams hope that the plans developed will stimulate the activity of teams of Guatemalans and foreign specialists. The following are the reports of individual teams: