1.) The Scale
Disasters comes in all forms and sizes; from large scale natural disasters like Earthquakes that may affect tens thousands of people to smaller disasters like automobile accidents that may just involve a few people. A disaster may just involve a few persons a personal level, it may affect a local community, a region, an entire nation or it may affect the world on a global level.
Disasters may affect people in many kinds of ways; one of the obvious results is Casualties in the form of dead and wounded. Disasters can also affect the physical and mental health of those affected; and in many cases like the nuclear power plant meltdowns in Chernobyl and Fukushima it can be very difficult to establish exactly what the long term effects for the affected will be.
Infrastructure is something that can often be affected resulting in a situation when roads, the electrical grid, gas pipes, electronic communications, water pipes and sewage maybe interrupted. This can be the case during wars and natural disasters but there are also other types of disasters like pandemics that may not affect infrastructure.
Property and Economical Loses is often a major problem when people can lose their homes, savings, businesses and jobs. People can get injured or disabled resulting in additional long term economical los.
Disasters often have Other direct consequences for politics especially in the form of blame games and assigning guilt. This can result in everything from political resignations, or new institutions like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
This is just a few examples of what type of consequences a disaster can have; all disasters are unique and have their own specific effects. The result of these effects is not only the disaster itself, it is also an effect by the of buildings in case of earthquakes, topography, what economical resources that is available, the resources and training of first responders and the population density of an affected area just to name a few possible factors.
Fast or Slow Onset
Disasters are often viewed as fast dramatic events like the Haiti Earthquake or The Nuclear attacks against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is however not the case in all types of disasters, some disasters slowly gain momentum like Famine and Starvation. Two examples of other potential slow onset threats are Peak Oil and Global Warming. Other type of threats like Hurricanes can be detected days before they strike and thereby allowing an Early Warning.
Some disasters like Earthquakes and Tsunamis can cause an enormous amount of damage during a very short period of time and then be over. Other type of disasters like Famine or an Economical Depression may last for months, years or even decades.
For individuals this aspect can indicate how much food or water storage that may appropriate for different disasters, for organizations that work with Crisis Management this can provide an insight into to what type of endurance the organization must be able to poses in order to manage emergencies with an extended duration including aspects like the rotation of man-power and how much supplies that must be available.
4.) The Origin of the Disasters: Man-Made or Natural Disasters
One very popular way to describe disasters is to split them into two categories; Man-Made and Natural Disasters. Natural Disasters involve all type of natural phenomena like Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes, Wild Fires, Hurricanes and Tornadoes. Man-Made disasters refer to events like Human Conflict, War, Terrorism and large scale accidents and failure of technical systems. This distinction between the origins is not perfect; many researchers emphasize that the Impact of Natural Disasters is a direct consequence of building standards, population density, access to Early Warning Systems to name a few factors. This is especially clear when it comes to number of dead in high-income countries and low income countries in various disasters. Natural Disasters can also trigger the failure of Man-Made systems like case of the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant Disaster.
This article is intended to provide some support for people how want to get a better understanding of Risks and Threats they may face. In this article I have discussed some of aspects of disasters but it’s important to understand that every disaster and risks presents its own specific challenges. One Size Does Not Fit All.
After you finished your Risk Assessment and Analyzed the specific Risks it’s also important to think about what Risks that you have not included into you assessments. A Risk Assessment can be of great help but it can also mask threats; especially those that does not correspond well to current trends and knowledge. What potential danger do you not view as Risks and Why? What information supports your assumptions and what information challenge them?