Risk & Disaster

Disaster refers to serious and sudden disruption in the functioning of a community as a result of widespread material, economic or environmental losses and impacts that exceed the ability of the affected community to recover by using its own resources. Disasters are the consequence of inappropriately managed risk which is the the product of a combination of both hazards (climatic events, attack, epidemic, etc.) and vulnerability. A disaster occurs when a hazard intersects with high vulnerability. Hazards that strike in areas with low vulnerability do not result in a disaster event because the community is better equipped (structurally, economically, etc.) to manage risk. Communities with insufficient resources to manage risk are more vulnerable, and this results in catastrophic consequences when a hazard strikes. For example, low-income ‘developing’ countries suffer the greatest material and mortality costs when a hazard strikes; more than 95 percent of all deaths caused by hazards occur in developing countries, and losses due to natural hazards are 20 times greater in poor countries than in rich countries.

Hazards can take many different forms (natural or human-generated), and the duration of a strike can range from an instant (earthquake) to days, weeks or years of ongoing destruction (war). Below is a list of the various hazards.

Natural Hazards

Artificial Hazards

Disaster preparedness refers to coordinated measures to prepare for and reduce the consequences of a disaster event. Preparedness requires 1) identifying potential hazards, 2.) identifying vulnerabilities and highly vulnerable populations, and 3.) developing strategies to mitigate risk and increase resilience to a disaster scenario. Disaster preparedness provides a platform for responders to design effective, realistic and  coordinated planning processes that reduce the duplication of efforts. The overall goals of preparedness are to prevent disaster situations, save lives, maintain livelihoods, and return the affected population back to normalcy within a short time period.


Discussion: Select a hazard event (natural or artificial), a location where the hazard can strike, and identify a vulnerable community at the location. Use the resources in the readings to develop a preparedness plan for a specific vulnerable community.

You have completed the final case study for extra credit! Now is the time to focus on your project and develop your own unique solutions to the problem you selected to address.

Be sure to read the Final Project Description and scan through the Resources for scholarly material to support your work.