What is Disaster ?

The following are some definitions of a disaster that can be used as a reference:

  1. A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources (The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction – UNISDR)
  2. Event or series of events that threaten and disrupt the lives and livelihoods caused by both natural factors and / or non-natural factors and human factors that lead to the emergence of human casualties, environmental damage, loss of property, and the psychological impact (Indonesian Law Number 24 Year 2007)
  3. Exceptional events which suddenly kill or injure large number of people (Red Cross/Red Crescent).
  4. An overwhelming ecological disruption occurring on a scale sufficient to require outside assistance (PAHO 1980).
  5. A situation or event which overwhelms local capacity, necessitating a request to a national or international level for external assistance (The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster – CRED).
  6. An occurrence that causes damage, ecological disruption, loss of human life, deterioration of health and health services on a scale sufficient to warrant an extraordinary response from outside the affected community area (World Health Organization, 1998).


From the above definitions, we can see that in general the disaster is an extraordinary event and require external assistance. The disaster could be caused by natural factors, non-natural and human factors.

Below are the examples of disaster events:

1. Natural Disaster

  • Weather-related: floods, landslides/mudslides, windstorms, tornadoes, thunderstorms, winter storms, droughts, forest fires, etc.
  • Geophysical-related: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, tidal waves.

2. Man-made Disaster

  • Non-intentional: transportation accidents (road/sea/air), fires, building/bridge collapse, etc.
  • Intentional: race/ethnic conflict, terrorism, civil war, etc.

3. Non-natural Disaster: epidemic, diseases, radiation, etc.

From the above examples, we can see that there are disasters in small-scale, medium-scale, large-scale or an extraordinary event such as epidemic.


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