It seems that hardly a week passes without a disaster: worldwide heat waves, typhoons in Taiwan, flooding in Texas and West Virginia, wildfires in Canada and California, mudslides in Japan, tornadoes in the mid-west, terrorist attacks in Europe and the middle East, home-grown shooter attacks in Florida, etc. What is going on? Are disasters really increasing, and if so, why? Are "natural" disasters part of an earth cycle or are we causing them?
It should come as no surprise that most definitions for disaster are at least somewhat anthropomorphic. The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) website defines a disaster as "...a sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community's or society's ability to cope using its own resources."
Disasters can be subdivided into five categories:
While the number of fatalities for some types of natural disasters—earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis—is decreasing due to better warning systems and preparedness on the part of residents, their communities, and state and federal governments, the number of people affected by them—via non-fatal injuries, loss of homes, businesses, and infrastructure—is larger due to population growth and expansion into disaster prone areas.
Regardless of the type of disaster, the management cycle each community experiences before, during, and after a disaster is the same and can be represented by the following graphic: