Knowledge is the key to survival when nature turns hostile, whether because we're living on trembling ground, building homes along vulnerable coasts, or navigating through dangerous water. That's why scientists study nature's greatest acts of destruction — by recreating them. Here are ten labs where they do it.

They do it to help firefighters, rescue workers, and even civilians in the fight for survival. These scientists study the geologic and meteorologic phenomena behind natural disasters—and to do that, they must stage them in controlled environments. Welcome to the labs that are designed for disaster, where researchers unleash the devastating forces of nature, cataclysms, accidents and giant balls of fire.

A 75-meter-long ice pool at Aker Arctic Technology Inc's ice laboratory, in Helsinki, Finland. The company specializes in the design, testing, evaluation, simulation and development of icebreakers and other ice-going vessels as well as structures for arctic oil and gas field operations.

Photo: Aker Arctic Technology Inc

Photo: Aker Arctic Technology Inc

Photo: Aker Arctic Technology Inc

Photo: Aker Arctic Technology Inc

The U.S. Coast Guard's new Rescue Swimmer Training Facility, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The training pool is approximately 164-by-82-feet, measuring 12-feet deep, and holds more than one million gallons of water.

Photo: PO2 Walter Shinn/DVIDS

The 9D6B Modular Egress Training System, at Aviation Survival Training Center Jacksonville, Florida.

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Adam K. Thomas/U.S. Navy

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon Renfroe/U.S. Navy

Photo: Aircrew In-Flight Technician Airman Scott Beach/U.S. Air Force

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon Renfroe/U.S. Navy

The Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division's newly renovated "Indoor Ocean", called the Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin (MASK) facility, helps the Navy to understand extreme maritime circumstances. MASK was built in 1962, and it’s still the Navy’s biggest wave pool: 360 feet long, 240 feet wide, and holds approximately 12 million gallons of water.

Gif and image source: Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division/U.S. Navy

The Oregon State University's O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory is a key facility for coastal and ocean engineering research, including programs for tsunami research and coastal hazard mitigation.

Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP

Photo: OSU

Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP

Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP

Photo: OSU

A large scale indoor model of the Yangtze River at the Hydraulics Lab of Changjiang Water Resources Commission in Wuhan, China.

Photo: CSCE

The FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility, at the University of Edinburgh, UK, lets engineers easily test their new wave turbines for tidal power in a controlled facility. FloWave is a 82-foot diameter pool and it is circular—so complex waves, fast currents and large water spikes can come in any direction rather than just one.

Photo: Edinburgh University

Photo: Callum Bennetts

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Research Center, a $40 million hangar of destruction in South Carolina, is where experts can destroy full-scale model houses with rainstorms, hail, tornadoes and wildfire. The 21,000 square foot test chamber is as tall as a six-story building, and big enough to accommodate nine 2,300 square foot model homes at the same time.

Gif source: IBHS Research Center

Gif source: IBHS Research Center

Photo: IBHS Research Center

The Iowa State University’s Tornado/Microburst Simulator can generate a translating microburst-like jet (6.0 ft diameter) and a tornado-like vortex (4.0 ft diameter) for model testing, in order to understand the effects of tornados on buildings and other structures.

Gif source: ISUengineering

Photo: Iowa State University

This is the world's largest shake table earthquake simulator in Miki City, near Kobe, Japan. Measuring approximately 65 feet by 49 feet, the table can support 1:1 scale building experiments weighing up to 2.5 million pounds, like the million-pound seven-story condominium below, subjected to a simulated 6.7 magnitude earthquake.

Photo: Colorado State University

Gif source: Simpson Strong-Tie

Top photo: Fire scientists at the IBHS Research Center recreate an ember storm in the lab’s large test chamber [Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety Research Center]