What Is A Disaster?

Active flame front of the Zaca Fire, the secon...

Active flame front of the Zaca Fire, the second largest fire on record in California. U.S. Forest Service photo by John Newman, from the interagency (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s what the dictionary says for starters . . . .

“1. A sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life.”
“2. Denoting a genre of films that use natural or accidental catastrophe as the mainspring of plot and setting.”

General speaking there are two types of disaster, there are

  • Man Made disasters
  • Natural disasters

These disasters can be classed as major disasters (like Hurricane Katrina) or minor disasters (like Janet Jackson’s “Nipplegate” at the Super Bowl XXXVIII), well, it was a minor disaster for everyone except Janet Jackson!

Major Natural Disasters

  • Cyclones
  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Droughts
  • Hurricanes
  • Tsunamis
  • Volcanic Eruptions

Minor Natural Disasters

  • Thunderstorms
  • Heat waves
  • Mud slides
  • Storms
  • Cold Waves

Major Man Made Disasters

  • Setting of Fires (many wildfires are actually man made disasters)
  • Deforestation
  • Epidemic
  • Pollution
  • Wars
  • Chemical pollution

Minor Man Made Disasters

  • Food poisoning
  • Travel accidents – road, rail, plane
  • Industrial disasters
  • Environmental pollution

When Do Disasters Occur

Generally speaking, disasters occur when three conditions occur in the same place, at the same time;

  1. People live in dangerous places, i.e. close to rivers which are in danger of flooding or close to an active volcano
  2. Something disastrous happens either natural or man made – the river floods, the volcano erupts
  3. The phenonmenon causes widespread damage and death, especially in areas where no preventative methods have been put in place.


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