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Basic Concept of Disaster

and Disaster Risk

Concept of Disaster

A disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material,
economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope
up using its own resources.

In contemporary academia, disasters are seen as the consequence of inappropriately managed risk. These risks are the
product of a combination of both hazards and vulnerability. Hazards that strike in areas with low vulnerability will never
become disasters, as is the case in uninhabited regions. (Quarantelli, 1998)

Developing countries suffer the greatest costs when a disaster hits--- more than 95 percent of all deaths caused by
hazards occur in developing countries, and losses due to natural hazards are 20 times greater (as a percentage of GDP)
in developing countries than in industrialized countries. (Ballesteros, 2008)

Effects of Disasters: Risk and Resilience Factors

Every year, millions of people are affected by both humancaused and natural disasters. Disasters may be explosions,
earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados, or fire. In a disaster, you face the danger of death or physical injury. You may
also lose your home, possessions, and community. Such stressors place you at risk for emotional and physical health

Stress reactions after a disaster look very much like the common reactions seen after any type of trauma. Disasters can
cause a full range of mental and physical reactions. You may also react to problems that occur after the event, as they
trigger and remind you of the trauma.

Risk Factors

A number of factors make it more likely that someone will have more severe or longer-lasting stress reactions after

Severity of Exposure

The amount of exposure to the disaster is highly related to risk of future mental problems. The highest risks are those
that have gone through the disaster themselves. Next are those in close contact with victims. The lower risk with lasting
impact are those who only had indirect exposure, such as news of the severe damage. Injury and life threat are the
factors that lead most often to mental health problems. Studies have looked at severe natural disasters, such as: the
Armenian earthquake, mudslides in Mexico, and Hurricane Andrew in the US. The findings show that at least half of
these survivors suffer from distress or mental health problems that need clinical care.

Gender and Family

Almost always, women or girls suffer from more negative effects than men or boys. Disaster recovery is more stressful
when children are present in the home. Women with spouses also experience more distress during recovery. Having a
family member in the home, who is extremely distressed, is related to more stress to everyone. Marital stress has been
found to increase after disasters. Also, conflicts between family members or lack of support in the home make it harder
to recover from disasters.


Adults who are in the age which ranges from 40–60 are likely to be more distressed after disasters. The thinking is that
being in that age range, they have more demands from job and family. Research on how children react to natural
disasters is limited. In general, children show more severe distress after disasters rather than adults. Higher stress in the
parents is related to worse recovery of children.

Other Specific Factors of the Survivors

Several factors related to a survivors' background and resources are important for recovery from disaster. Recovery is
worse if you:

1. Were not functioning well before the disaster. 2. Have had no experience dealing with disasters. 3. Have to deal with
other stressors after the disaster. 4. Have poor self-esteem. 5. Feeling of being uncared. 6. Have little control of the
events 7. Lack the capacity to manage stress. Other factors have also been found to predict worse outcomes:
1. Bereavement (death of someone close) 2. Injury to self or another family member life threat 3. Panic, horror, or
feelings during the disaster 4. Being separated from family (especially among youth) 5. Great loss of property 6.
Displacement (being forced to leave home)

Developing Countries

These risk factors can be made worse if the disaster occurs in a developing country. Disasters in developing countries
have more severe mental health impact than disasters in developed countries. This is true even with less serious
disasters. For example, natural disasters are generally thought to be less serious than humancaused. In developing
countries, though, natural disasters have more severe effects than do human-caused disasters in developed countries.

Low or Negative Social Support

The support of others can be both a risk and a resilient factor. Social support can weaken after disasters. This may be
due to stress and the need for members of the support network to get on with their own lives. Sometimes the responses
from others you rely on for support are negative. For example, someone may play

down your problems, needs, or pain, or expect you to recover more quickly. This is strongly linked to long-term distress
in traum survivors.

After a mass trauma, social conflicts, even those that have been resolved, may again be seen. Racial, religious, ethnic,
social, and tribal divisions may recur as people try to gain access to much-needed resources. In families, conflicts may
arise if family members went through different things in the disaster. This sets up different courses of recovery that
often are not well understood among family members. Family members may also serve as distressing reminders to each
other of the disaster.

Keep in mind that while millions of people have been directly affected by disasters, most of them recover. Human
nature is resilient, and most people have the ability to recover from a disaster. Plus, people sometimes report positive
changes after disaster. They may re-think what is truly important and come to appreciate what they value most in life.

Resilience Factors

Human resilience dictates that a large number of survivors will naturally recover from disasters over time. They will
move on without having severe, long-lasting mental health issues. Certain factors increase resilience after disasters:

Social Support

Social support is one of the keys to recovery after any trauma, including disaster. Social support increases well-being and
limits distress after mass trauma. Being connected to others makes it easier to obtain knowledge needed for disaster
recovery. Through social support, you can also find:

1. Practical help in solving problems. 2. A sense of being understood and accepted. 3. Sharing of trauma experiences. 4.
Getting comfort that what you went through and

how you responded is not "abnormal." 5. Shared tips about coping

Coping Confidence

Over and over, research has found out that coping selfefficacy - "believing that you can do it" - is related to better
mental health outcomes for disaster survivors. When you think that you can cope no matter what happens to you, you
tend to do better after a disaster. It is not so much feeling like you can handle things in general. Rather, it is believing
you can cope with the results of a disaster that has been found to help survivors to recover.


Better outcomes after disasters or mass trauma are likely if you have one or more of the following:

1. Optimism (because you can hope for the future) 2. Expecting the positive 3. Confidence that you can predict your life
and yourself 4. Belief that it is likely that things will work out well as

reasonably be expected. . 5. Belief that outside sources, such as the government,

are acting on your behalf with your welfare at heart 6. Belief in God 7. Positive superstitious belief, such as "I'm always

lucky." 8. Practical resources, including housing, job, money

Summing It Up

Disasters can cause both mental and physical reactions. Being closer to the disaster and having weak social support can
lead to worse recovery. On the other hand, being connected to others and being confident that you can handle the
results of the disaster make mental health problems lesser. Overall, human beings are resilient, and most survivors will
recover from the disaster. For those with higher risk factors, self-care and seeking help are recommended and to learn
more about coping after any kind of trauma.

Disaster Defined

'Disaster is a crisis situation that far exceeds the capabilities'. (Quarentelly, 1985)

"Disaster' is defined as a crisis situation causing wide spread damage which far exceeds our ability to recover. The by
definition, there cannot be a perfect ideal system that prevent damage, because then it would not be a disaster. It
suffocates ability to recover. Only then it can be called as 'disaster. Disaste are not totally discrete events. Their
possibility of occurrence time, place and severity of the strike can be reasonably and in some cases accurately predicted
by technological and scientific advances. It has been established that there is a definite pattem in their occurrences and,
hence, we can to some extent reduce the impact of damage though we cannot reduce the extent of damage itself.

Types of Disaster

Disasters are mainly of two (2) types: 1. Natural disasters.

Example: earthquakes, floods, landslides, etc. 2. Man made disasters.

Example: war, bomb blasts, chemical leaks, etc.

The phases of all disasters, be it natural or man made, are the same. The disasters often differ in quantity of damage
caused or in quality of the type of medical consequences. For example earthquakes cause a lot of physical injury and
fractures; floods cause drowning and infections, chemical leaks cause toxic manifestations, etc.

Business Definition for Disaster Management

"...the actions taken by an organization in response to unexpected events that are adversely affecting people or
resources and threatening the continued operation of the organization."

Disaster management includes: the development of disaster recovery plans, (for minimizing the risk of disasters and for
handling them when they do occur,) and the implementation of such plans.

Disaster management usually refers to the management of natural catastrophes such as: fire, flooding, or earthquakes.
Related techniques include: crisis management, contingency management, and risk management.

Disaster/emergency management is the discipline of dealing with and avoiding risks. It involves preparing for a disaster
before it happens, disaster response (e.g. emergency evacuation, quarantine, mass decontamination, etc.), as well as
supporting, and rebuilding society after natural or human-made disasters have occurred.

In general, any emergency management is the continuous process by which all individuals, groups, and communities
manage hazards in an effort to avoid or ameliorate the impact of disasters resulting from the hazards. Actions taken
depend in part on perceptions of risk of those who were exposed.

Effective emergency management relies on thorough integration of emergency plans at all levels of government and
non-government involvement. Activities at each level (individual, group, community) affect the other levels. It is
common to place the responsibility for governmental emergency management with the institutions for civil defense or
within the conventional structure of the emerg services. In the private sector, emergency management is sometimes
referred to as business continuity planning.

Other terms used for disaster management include: 1. Emergency Management which has replaced Civil defense, can be
seen as a more general intent to protect the civilian population in times of peace as well as in times of war. 2. Civil
Protection is widely used within the European Union and refers to government approved systems and resources whose
task is to protect the civilian population, primarily in the event of natural and human-made disasters. 3. Crisis
Management is the term widely used in EU countries and it emphasizes the political and security dimension rather than
measures to satisfy the immediate needs of the civilian population.

Disaster Risk Reduction. An academic trend is to wards using the term is growing, particularly for emergency
management in a development manage ment context. This focuses on the mitigation and preparedness aspects of the
emergency cycle (see information below).

Natural Hazards and Natural Disasters

A natural hazard is a threat of a naturally occurring event which will have a negative effect on humans. This negative
effect is what we call a natural disaster. In other words, when the hazardous threat actually happens and harms humans,
we call the event a natural disaster.

Natural Hazards (and the resulting disasters) are the result of naturally occurring processes that have operated
throughout Earth's history. 1. Most hazardous process are also Geologic Processes.

Geologic processes affect every human on Earth all of the time, but are most noticeable when they cause loss of life or
property. If the process that poses the hazard occurs and destroys human life or property, then a natural disaster has
occurred. Among the natural hazards and possible disasters to be considered are:

a. Earthquakes b. Floods

C. Droughts d. Hurricanes e. Tornadoes f. Asteroid Impacts g. Volcanic Eruptions h. Tsunami

i. Landslides

j. Subsidence

2. All of these processes have been operating throughout

Earth history, but the processes have become hazardous only because they negatively affect us as human beings.
Important Point: There would be no natural

disasters if it were not for humans. Without humans these are only natural events.

3. Risk is characteristic of the relationship between

humans and geologic processes. We all take risks everyday. The risk from natural hazards, while it cannot be eliminated,
can, in some cases be understood in a such a way that we can minimize the hazard to humans, and thus minimize the
risk. To do this, we need to understand something about the processes that operate, and understand the energy
required for the process. Then, we can develop an action to take to minimize the risk. Such minimized

risk is called hazard mitigation. 4. Although humans can sometimes influence natural

disasters (for example when poor levee design results in a flood), other disasters that are directly generated by humans,
such as oil and toxic material spills, pollution, massive automobile or train wrecks, airplane crashes, and human induced
explosions, are considered technological disasters, and will not be considered in this course, except when they occur as a
secondary result of a natural disaster.

Some of the questions we hope to answer for each possible natural disaster are: a. Where is each type of hazard likely to

present and why? b. What scientific principles govern the processes

responsible for the disasters? c. How often do these hazards develop into

disasters? because they are

How Can Each Type of Disaster Be Predicted and Mitigated?

As discussed before, natural disasters are produced processes that have been operating since the Earth was form Such
processes are beneficial to us as humans because the responsible for things that make the Earth a habitable planet life.

For example: 1. Throughout Earth history, volcanoes have been

responsible for producing much of the water present on the Earth's surface, and for producing the

atmosphere. 2. Earthquakes are one of the processes responsible for

the formation of mountain ranges which direct water to flow downhill to form rivers and lakes.

Erosional processes, including flooding, landslides, and windstorms replenishes soil and helps sustain life.

Such processes are only considered hazardous when they adversely affect humans and their activities.
Classification of Natural Hazards and Disasters

| Natural Hazards and the natural disasters can be divided into several different categories: A. Geologic Hazards - These
are the main subject of this course and include:

1. Earthquakes 2. Volcanic Eruptions 3. Tsunami 4. Landslides 5. Floods 6. Subsidence 7. Impacts with space objects

B. Atmospheric Hazards. These are also natural hazards but

processes operating in the atmosphere are mainly responsible. They will also be considered in this course, and include:

1. Tropical Cyclones 2. Tornadoes 3. Droughts 4. Severe Thunderstorms 5. Lightning

C. Other Natural Hazards. These are hazards that may occur

naturally, but do not fall into either of the categories above. They will not be considered to any great extent in this
course, but include:

1. Insect infestations 2. Disease epidemics 3. Wildfires

Natural Hazards can also be divided into catastrophic hazards, which have devastating consequences to huge numbers
of people, or have a worldwide effect, such as impacts with large space objects, huge volcanic eruptions, world-wide
disease epidemics, and world-wide droughts. Such catastrophic hazards only have a small chance of occurring, but can
have devastating results if they do occur.

Natural Hazards can also be divided into rapid onset hazards, such as Volcanic Eruptions, Earthquakes, Flash floods,
Landslides, Severe Thunderstorms, Lightning, and wildfires, which gave with little warning and strike rapidly. Slow onset
hazards, like drought, insect infestations, and

disease epidemics take years to develop. D. Anthropogenic Hazards

These are hazards that occur as a result of human interaction with the environment. They include Technological
Hazards, which occur due to exposure to hazardous substances, such as: radon, mercury, asbestos fibers, and coal dust.
They also include other hazards that have formed only through human interaction, such as: acid rain, and contamination
of the atmosphere or surface waters with

harmful substances, as well as the potential for human destruction of the ozone layer and potential global warming.

Effects of Hazards

Hazardous process of all types can have primary, secondary, and tertiary effects.

1. Primary Effects occur as a result of the process itself. Example: water damage during a flood or collapse of

buildings during an earthquake, landslide, or hurricane.

2. Secondary Effects occur only because a primary effect

has caused them Example: fires ignited as a result of earthquakes,

disruption of electrical power and water service as a result of an earthquake, flood, or hurricane, or flooding caused by a
landslide into a lake or river.

3. Tertiary Effects are long-term effects that are set off as

a result of a primary event. These include things like loss of habitat caused by a flood, permanent changes in the position
of river channel caused by flood, crop failure caused by a volcanic eruption etc.

Vulnerability to Hazards and Disasters

Vulnerability refers the way a hazard or disaster will affect human life and property.

Vulnerability to a given hazard depends on:

1. Proximity to a possible hazardous event 2. Population density in the area proximal to the event 3. Scientific
understanding of the hazard 4. Public education and awareness of the hazard 5. Existence or non-existence of early-
warning systems

and lines of communication 6. Availability and readiness of emergency infrastructure 7. Construction styles and building
codes 8. Cultural factors that influence public response to

n general, less developed countries are more vulnerable to natural hazards than are industrialized countries because of
people's lack of understanding, education, infrastructure, building codes, etc. Poverty also plays a role - since poverty
leads to poor building structure, increased population density, and lack of communication and infrastructure,

Development and habitation of lands susceptible to hazards, For example, building on floodplains subject to floods, sea
cliffs subject to landslides, coastlines subject to hurricanes and floods, or volcanic slopes subject to volcanic eruptions.

Increasing the severity or frequency of a natural disaster. For example: overgrazing or deforestation leading to more
severe erosion (floods, landslides), mining groundwater leading to subsidence, construction of roads on unstable slopes
leading to landslides, or even contributing to global warming, leading to more severe storms.

Affluence can also play a role, since affluence often controls where habitation takes place, for example along coastlines,
or on volcanic slopes. Affluence also contributes to global warming, since it is the affluent societies that burn the most
fossil fuels adding carbon monoxide (CO) to the atmosphere.

Assessing Hazards and Risk Hazard Assessment consists of determining the following: 1. when and where hazardous
processes have occurred

in the past 2. the severity of the physical effects of past hazardous

processes (magnitude). 3. the frequency of occurrence of hazardous processes 4. the likely effects of a process of a given
magnitude if

it were to occur now and, 5. making all this information available in a form

useful to planners and public officials responsible for making decisions in event of a disaster

Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment involves not only the assessment of hazards from a scientific point of view, but also the socio-economic
impacts of a hazardous event. Risk is a statement of probability that an event will cause x amount of damage, or a
statement of the economic impact in monetary terms that an even

me that an event will cause. Risk assessment involves:

1. hazard assessment, as above 2. location of buildings, highways, and other infrastructure

in the areas subject to hazards 3. potential exposure to the physical effects of a hazardous

situation 4. the vulnerability of the community when subjected to

the physical effects of the event

Risk assessment aids, decision makers and scientists compare and evaluate potential hazards, set priorities on what
kinds of mitigation are possible, and set priorities on where to focus resources and further study.

Prediction and Warning

Risk and vulnerability can sometimes be reduced if there is an adequate means of predicting a hazardous event


Prediction involves a statement of probability that an event will occur based on scientific observation.

Such observation usually involves monitoring of the process in order to identify some kind of precursor event(s) - an
anomalous small physical change that may be known to lead to a more devastating event.

Examples: 1. Hurricanes are known to pass through several stages

of development: tropical depression - tropical storm - hurricane. Once a tropical depression is identified, monitoring
allows meteorologists to predict how long the development will take and the eventual path of the storm

b. Volcanic eruptions are usually preceded by a sudden

increase in the number of earthquakes immediately below the volcano and changes in the chemical composition of the
gases emitted from a volcanic vent. If these are closely monitored, volcanic eruptions can often be predicted with
reasonable accuracy,

Sometimes the word "forecast" is used synonymously with prediction and other times it is not.

In the prediction of floods, hurricanes, and other weather related phenomena the word forecast refers to short-term
prediction in terms of the magnitude, location, date, and time of an event. Most of us are familiar with weather

In the prediction of earthquakes, the word forecast is used in a much less precise way—referring to a long-term
probability that is not specific in terms of the exact time that the event will occur. For example: Prior to the October 17
1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake (also known as the World Series Earthquake) the U.S. Geological Survey had forecast a
50% probability that a large earthquake would occur in this area within the next 30 years. Even after the event, the
current forecast is for a 63% probability that a major earthquake will occur in this area in the next 30 years.

Early Warning

A warning is a statement that a high probability of a hazardous event will occur, based on a prediction or forecast. If a
warning is issued, it should be taken as a statement that "normal routines of life should be altered to deal with the
danger imposed by the imminent event".

The effectiveness of a warning depends on:

1. The timeliness of the warning 2. Effective communications and public information

systems to inform the public of the imminent danger. 3. The credibility of the sources from which the warning


If warnings are issued too late, or if there is no means in disseminating the information, then there will not be time
enough or responsiveness to the warning. If warnings are issued irresponsably without credible data or sources, then
they will likely be ignored. Thus, the people responsible for taking action in the event of a potential disaster will not

Frequency of Natural Disasters

It is important to understand that natural disasters result from natural processes that affect humans adversely.

First-Size Matters Example: 1. Humans coexist with rivers all the time and benefit from

them as a source of water and transportation. 2. Only when the volume of water in the river becomes greater

than the capacity of the stream channel is there a resulting

disaster. 3. Small earthquakes occur all of the time with no adverse

effects. Only large earthquakes cause disasters. Second - Location, Location, Location Example 1. A volcano in an isolated
uninhabited island will not result in

a natural disaster. 2. A large earthquake in an unpopulated area will not result in

a disaster. 3. A hurricane that makes landfall on a coast where few people live, will not result in a disaster.

So, what we have to worry about is large events that strike areas where humans live.

Thus, in natural hazards studies, it is important to understand the relationship between frequency of an event and the
size of the event. Size is often referred to as magnitude.

For just about any event, statistical analysis will reveal that larger events occur less frequently than small events.
Statistical analysis of some types of events for specific locations allow one to determine the return period or recurrence


Red River of the North at Fargo, North Dakota 1882-1994

Aga 10, 1997 30,000


100 YE* Fuad

Flood Frequency —

For any river, high discharge events are rare.

Large discharge events occur much less frequently than small discharge events.




0000 97

Peak Discharge

-10 Year Flen






Recurrence Interval (Years)


As we have just noted, large earthquakes occur much less frequently than smaller earthquakes. Those with magnitudes
greater than 8.5 only occur once every three (3) years on the average.

Is the Frequency of Natural Disasters Increasing?

Are natural disasters becoming more frequent as they seem from news reports of recent activity? The short answer
appears to be yes; natural disasters are increasing in frequency. But, this suggests some other important questions
before we start making conclusions about the end of the world:

1. Is the frequency of hazardous events increasing? 2. Why is the frequency of natural disasters increasing

(what could explain the trend)?

First, Is the frequency of hazardous events increasing? This is much more difficult to answer since natural events
responsible for natural disasters have been occurring throughout the 4.5 billion years history of the Earth. Nevertheless,
there is no evidence to suggest that hazardous events are occurring more frequently.

What about global warming? There is evidence to suggest that weather related disasters are becoming more frequent,
compared to other disasters like earthquakes. For example, the frequency of disasters from tropical cyclones and floods


been increasing, the frequency of earthquakes has changed little Although this is what we expect from global warming,
there is not yet enough statistical data to prove this right now,
Second, Is there another explanation for the frequency of natural disasters increasing? First consider the following facts:

1. Human population has been increasing at an

exponential rate. With more people, vulnerability increases because there are more people to be affected

by otherwise natural events. 2. Human population is moving toward coastal areas.

These are areas most vulnerable to natural hazards such as tropical cyclones, tsunami, and, to some

extent, earthquakes. 3. Our ability to communicate news of natural disasters

has been increasing, especially since the invention of the internet. Earlier in human history there may have been just as
many disasters, but there were few ways the news of such disasters could be communicated throughout the world
Meanwhile: Deaths from natural disasters have

decreased in developed countries and increased in developing countries. What could explain this? Politics? Economics?
Cultural Differences?

Education? The cost of natural disasters has been increasing in developed countries. What could explain this?

Examples of questions on this material that could be asked on an exam:

1. Define and give examples of each of the following types of hazard:

a. Geologic hazard, b. Atmospheric hazard, c. Catastrophic hazard, d. Rapid onset hazard, e. Anthropogenic hazard f.
Slow oneset hazard,

2. Explain how can poverty and affluence play roles in

increasing vulnerability to natural hazards. 3. What is the difference between hazard assessment

and risk assessment? 4. What factors determine the effectiveness of warning

systems? 5. Explain the difference between primary, secondary,

and tertiary effects of possible hazards. 6. What is the relationship between size of natural

events, disasters, and frequency of disasters? What is

the concept of recurrence interval? 7. What might be responsible for the apparent increase

in recent years of the number of natural disasters and the economic losses due to natural disasters?

The Devastating Impact of Natural Disasters

A region's vulnerability to natural disasters depends on multiple factors. The United Nations University calculates the
World Risk Index using four factors: exposure, susceptibility, coping capacities, and adaptive capacities. Exposure is the
amount of natural hazards an area is exposed to. Susceptibility refers to the levels of infrastructure, poverty, and
nutrition. Coping capacity is the ability to resist the impact of natural disasters through disaster preparedness. Adaptive
capacity is the capacity to make structural changes to reduce the impact of natural disasters in the future. When taking
into account all these factors, only one is completely out of our control: exposure. The other three factors are all
exacerbated by poverty.

Natural Disaster Facts and Statistics

According to a 2014 report by the United Nations, since 1994, 4.4 billion people have been affected by disasters, which
claimed 1.3 million lives and cost US$2 trillion in economic losses.

Low- and lower-middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by natural disasters. In the same 20-year
period, 33 percent of countries that experienced disasters were low- to lower-middle income, but 81 percent of people
who died in disasters lived in these countries.

Women and children in developing countries are often the most vulnerable demographic groups after natural disasters.

Eight out of 10 of the world's cities most at risk to natural disasters are in the Philippines.
Natural disasters affect the number of people living below the poverty line, increasing their numbers by more than 50
percent in some cases. The problem is getting worse; up to 325 million extremely poor people are expected to live in the
49 most hazardprone countries by 2030.

Millions of people are affected by natural disasters every year, and their impact can be calamitous. From the destruction
of buildings to the spread of disease, natural disasters can devastate entire countries overnight. Tsunamis, earthquakes
and typhoons do not just wreak havoc on land; they also disrupt people's lives in both densely populated cities and
remote villages.

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) devastated this village on the island of Leyte when it struck the Philippines in November

Hazard versus. Disaster

Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and volcano eruptions are all types of natural hazards, but when do they become
natural disasters? The difference is the events' effects on people. When a typhoon strikes a populated island in the
Philippines, destroving homes and lives, it becomes a disaster. People living in poverty are even more vulnerable to
natural disasters because they have fewer resources or people to turn to when trying to rebuild their homes and

An Increase in Natural Disasters

According to a November 2015 report from the United Nations, the rate of weather-related disasters (such as cyclones,
typhoons and droughts) is growing. Between 2005 and 2014, the annual average of weather-related disasters was 335,
an increase of 14 percent from 1995 to 2004 and almost twice the average recorded from 1985 to 1995.

In the past 20 years, 90 percent of major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heat waves,
droughts and other weather events. Indonesia, India and the Philippines are among the five countries hit by the highest
number of disasters, beside the United States and China.

Why Are Developing Countries More Vulnerable to Natural Disasters?

Developed countries are better prepared to handle the impact of disasters as well as the aftermath. In developing
nations, natural disasters trap people in a cycle of poverty because they do not have the resources to rebuild their
homes and meet other basic needs, making them less able to recover in the long run. Certain factors present in poverty
environments will turn a natural hazard into a disaster:

1. Poorly constructed buildings 2. Poor sanitation 3. Rapid population growth/high density population 4. Limited
resources for disaster response and rebuilding 5. Lack of economic safety nets

A man searches through the wreckage of a home in the Kavrepalanchok district of Nepal after a massive earthquake in
April 2015. Photo by Jake Lyell.

Small Island Developing States and Vulnerability to Natural Disasters

Many of the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters are small island developing states (SIDS). These countries
experience frequent storms and flooding and have very little resources and man-power to cope. Additionally, the size of
these islands means that already fragile economies, usually agriculture

based, can be totally devastated by a natural disaster. With levels rapidly rising, SIDS are becoming more vulnerable to
natural disasters with little hope for the future,

Human Factors and the Severity of Natural Disasters

There are several human factors that influence the severity of a natural disaster. Even within the same region, different
people have different levels of vulnerability to natural hazards.

1. Wealth
2. Education

: People living in poverty cannot afford adequate housing or infrastructure. They are unable to acquire resources needed
before and after a

disaster strikes. : Education increases awareness about avoiding or reducing the impact of disasters. A bettereducated
population will have more professionals trained to prepare for catastrophic natural events.

3. Governance : Governments can set policies and establish in

frastructure to reduce vulnerability to hazards, Some governments have more resources avail

able to dedicate to disaster risk reduction. 4. Technology : Technology allows us to forecast weather, signi

ficantly reducing vulnerability. 5. Age : Children and the elderly are more vulnerable

because they have less physical strength and weaker immune systems. Children and the elderly are more dependent on
others for survival but may not have anyone to depend

upon after disaster strikes. 6. Gender : Women are more likely to be poorer and

less educated than men, making them more vulnerable to hazards.

The Human Impact of Natural Disasters

1. Displaced : One of the most immediate effects of natural Populations disasters is population displacement. When

countries are ravaged by earthquakes or other powerful forces of nature, many people have to abandon their homes
and seek shelter in other regions. A large influx of refugees can disrupt accessibility of health care and education, as well

as food supplies and clean water. 2. Health

: Aside from the obvious immediate danger that Risks

natural disasters present, the secondary effects can be just as damaging. Severe flooding can result in stagnant water
that allows breeding of waterborne bacteria and malaria-carrying mosquitos. Without emergency relief from
international aid organizations and others, death tolls can rise even after the immediate danger has passed.

3. Food


: After natural disasters, food often becomes scarce. Thousands of people around the world go hungry as a result of
destroyed crops and loss of agricultural supplies, whether it happens suddenly in a storm or gradually in a drought. As a
result, food prices rise, reducing families' purchasing power and increasing the risk of severe malnutrition or worse. The
impacts of hunger following an earthquake, typhoon or hurricane can be tremendous, causing lifelong damage to
children's development.

4. Emotional


: Natural disasters can be particularly traumatic

for young children. Confronted with scenes of destruction and the deaths of friends and loved ones, many children
develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a serious psychological condition resulting from extreme trauma. Left
untreated, children suffering from PTSD can be prone to lasting psychological damage and emotional distress.

When Natural Events become Natural Disasters

When determining whether a natural event will be gorized as a disaster, emergency managers and responders to know
who and what is at risk. Jurisdictions often know w natural events, such as floods, may occur and sometimes have
estimates of impact for certain frequency events, but they ra know who is going to be impacted. Using social vulnerabili
assessments, emergency managers and first responders hav access to important data to understand who is going to be
impacted and how best to communicate risk to that population (Melton 2015) 1. Tailoring Response to Specific
Emergency response efforts can be tailored to target the needs of these populations before, during, and after an event If
an area has a large foreign language speaking population, they may want to ensure warnings go out in multiple
languages and translators are available in shelters. If the affected county has a large elderly population, emergency
managers and responders may want to develop outreach programs where neighbors check in on the elderly, or develop
transportation services for evacuation efforts for those not able to drive. (Melton 2015)

2. Social Vulnerability Assessments Improve Response

A natural event only becomes a disaster when it impacts human life, property, or livelihood. The greater the number of
vulnerable populations living in an at-risk area, the more likely an event will be categorized as a catastrophe. By
identifying at-risk populations through a social vulnerability assessment, more lives can be protected by preparing
specific emergency response efforts and performing targeted risk communication during the event. By better
characterization of vulnerable populations, the human impacts of natural events can be reduced. (Melton 2015)

Hazard mitigation plans are beginning to incorporate social vulnerability assessments. At Dewberry, we've in corporated
these assessments into the West Virginia and Maryland State Hazard Mitigation Plans. By recognizing the vulnerable
populations in each county, emergency managers were able to tailor mitigation strategies to best serve the

populations that lived there by reducing impacts. (Melton 2015)

Taking the extra step to identify potentially affected populations through social vulnerability assessment can support
more comprehensive planning, preparedness, and response techniques. (Melton 2015)

Types of Disasters: Definition of Hazard

Threatening event, or probability of occurrence of a potentially damaging phenomenon within a given time period and
area. 1. Natural hazards are naturally occurring physical pheno

mena caused either by rapid or slow onset events which can be geophysical (earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis and
volcanic activity), hydrological (avalanches and floods), climatological(extreme temperatures, drought and wildfires),
meteorological (cyclones and storms/wave surges) or

biological (disease epidemics and insect/animal plagues). 2. Technological or man-made hazards (complex emergencies/

conflicts, famine, displaced populations, industrial accidents and transport accidents) are events that are caused by
humans and occur in or close to human settlements. This can include environmental degradation, pollution and
accidents. Technological or man-made hazards (complex emergencies/ conflicts, famine, displaced populations,
industrial accidents and transport accidents)

There are a range of challenges, such as climate change, unplanned-urbanization, under-development/poverty as well as
the threat of pandemics, that will shape humanitarian assistance in the future. These aggravating factors will result in
increased frequency, complexity and severity of disasters.

Biological Hazards: Epidemics Definition and Characteristics

An epidemic is then unusual increase in the number of cases of an infectious disease which already exists in a certain
region or population. It can also refer to the appearance of a significant number of cases of an infectious disease in a
region or population that is usually free from that disease.

Epidemics may be the consequence of disasters of another kind, such as tropical storms, floods, earthquakes, droughts etc. Epidemics
may also attack animals, causing local economic disasters.

In general, the Red Cross

Red Crescent response to
epidemics prioritizes
creating awareness,
advocating effective action
Social mobilization based
on volunteer activities and
logistics support (transport,
warehouses, etc),
Federation support often
complements the efforts of
UN bodies, 1. Avian Flu
Avian influenza (AT) is a viral infection primarily affecting birds (chickens, ducks, geese etc., both domestic and migratory species), but
also sometimes other species such as pigs and tigers,
Rarely, bird flu can cause severe infections in humans. There are many different strains or varieties of Al viruses, They are a sub-group
of influenza viruses, which includes the flu virus that causes seasonal outbreaks in humans around

the world every year. 2.

Cholera is mainly
spread by drinking
water contaminated by
faeces. The fatality rate
for severe, untreated
cases is 50 per cent;
when treated this drops
to one per cent.
The incubation period
is 1-12 days and
severe cases need
hospitalisation. Less
severe cases can be
treated with rehydration
therapy on an
outpatient basis. Only
10 per cent of those
infected present
Key control factors are: ensuring a safe water supply and rigorous hygiene (hand washing and disposal of soiled items).
Crowded wards are not a hazard to staff or visitors, if good hygiene is observed. Quarantine is unnecessary
Vaccine is inappropriate in an emergency. 3. Dengue Fever
Dengue or breakbone fever and dengue haemorrhagic fever are transmitted by "day biter" mosquitoes. Dengue fever is rarely fatal; the
haemorrhagic variety, if untreated,

can result in a 40-50 per cent mortality rate. With hospital care and fluid therapy, this can be brought to below five per cent.
Epidemic control measures comprise mosquito destruction and elimination of breeding sites and the use of
mosquito repellents by exposed persons. 4. Ebola and Marburg
Two distinct viral diseases with similar symptoms. Both have a high fatality rate (up to 90 per cent for Ebola) and are extremely
contagious-transmission is through contact with all body fluids and organs, use of contaminated needles and syringes, and the aerosol
Extraordinary precautions should be taken to prevent contamination of all those involved in assisting patients. The reservoir of the two
viruses is unknown.
5. Malaria

Malaria is transmitted
by the bite of the
anopheles mosquito, a
dusk to dawn biter.
Where the disease is
endemic, the local
population has some
degree of immunity.
The people at greatest
risk are those from a
non-malarial area,
such as IDPs or
refugees. They can be
protected by a weekly
dose of a malaria
suppressive drug. Of
the four types of
malaria, falciparum can
be rapidly fatal and
needs prompt
Treatment is by orally
administered drugs.
Control measures
include the spraying,
filling or draining of
standing water where
mosquitos breed, the
spraying of living and
sleeping quarters and
the use of bednets.
Quarantine is
unnecessary, as is the
immunisation of
contacts. An
immunisation coverage
of less than 90 per
cent means a major
risk of outbreaks.
5. Measles
This is a highly
communicable viral
infection that can
result in a very high
mortality rate,
especially among
children and
A prompt and
vaccination programme
at the start of an
outbreak can help limit
its spread. If vaccine
economic development of nations. Everyone, rich or poor, Young or old is affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic but people in developing
countries, particularly young women, are the most vulnerable. The majority of the victims are adults in the puue of their working and
parenting lives. Their legacy is a decimated workforce, fractured and impoverished communibes and millions of orphans.
While 70 per cent of HIV-infected people live in subharan Anca. AIDS is a global problem. In countries like Zimbabwe and Botswana,
over 25 per cent of people between the ages of 1549 are infected with the virus. HIV infection salso spreading rapidly in south and
south-east Asia, the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Caribbean.

AIDS can be prevented.

The fight against the
disease must be waged
at the local level.
Individuals and
communities con cope
with the spread of
HIV/AIDS by being
properly normed,
assessing accurately the
factors that put them at
sk of infection and by
subsequently acting to
reduce those risks. The
problem, according to
the World Bank, is that
frene has not been
sufficient amount of
coordinated activities to
slow and eventually
reverse the spread of
the disease. Individuals,
governments, civil
society, private sector
outs, international and non-governmental organizations must fully commit and participate in scaling up response ensuring that
complementary initiatives occur at the national and regional level
10. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is
the single most
deadly infectious
disease and kills
two million people
each year. Of the
eight million ne
annually, per cent are in developing countries Asia and sub Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have been working,
closely with National Societies and the WHO to control the TB epidemic in Eastern Porce. These efforts were initially intended to serve
le proposto il pertence and to provide assistance to patients and the families. Such proprammes have shown
at there was need
to scale up
activities in order
to have a greater
impact on the
worldwide. Earthquakes

Earthquakes are
the result of forces
deep within the
earth's interior.
Sudden break
within the upper
layers of the earth,
breaking the
surface, resulting
in the vibration of
the ground, which
were strong
enough will cause
the collapse a
buildings and
destruction of life
and property.
They strike with no early warning and can be devastating, but after a major one, aftershocks may be as strong as a new earthquake.
Earthquakes usually happen along a fault plate, the border between plates:

North American Plate

Global plate tectonic map
Earthquakes often trigger landslides, tidal waves and tsunamis. Powerful aftershocks frequently occur, causing further damage and
increasing psychological stress.
When earthquakes hit, local Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers carry out search and rescue -- this is more effective than rescue
teams who are flown in from abroad as these teams generally arrive too late. High numbers of seriously injured people may require
surgery within 48-72 hours, after that little lifesaving surgery can be done.
After an earthquake, the Federation response prioritizes first aid, shelter, safe water and sanitation, basic health care and field
hospitals. Psychological support should always be addressed, as well as possible tracing mechanisms for reuniting families.
Measuring Earthquakes
Intensity scales, like the Modified Mercalli scale and the Rossi-Forel scale, measure the amount of shaking at a particular location. The
intensity of an earthquake will vary depending on where you are. Sometimes earthquakes are referred to by the maximum intensity they
Magnitude scales, like
the Richter magnitude
scale and moment
magnitude, measure the
size of the earthquake at
its source. So they do
not depend on where
the measurement is
made. Often, several
slightly different
magnitudes are reported
for an earthquake. This
happens because the
relation between the
seismic measurements
and the magnitude is
complex and different
procedures will often
give slightly different
magnitudes for the same
Earthquakes are
measured according
to the Richter
scalethe most
devastating effects
are seen on level 6
and above, and if
the epicentre of the
earthquake is
located in highly
populated areas.
Earthquakes can
cause high numbers
of deaths and
injuries as well as
serious destruction
of buildings and
How to Prevent
You cannot prevent
earthquakes but you
can reduce the
potential damages:
1. Development of
possible warning
indicators 2. Land-
use regulations 3.
Building regulations
4. Relocation of
communities. 5.
Public awareness
and education