What Is A Disaster?

We recognize the images of disaster, but what factors do organizations take into account when responding to disasters?

We're familiar with the destruction and pain that disasters bring - the images are familiar to us. What is less people understand, though, is that the actual event - a tornado, flood, hurricane, or disease outbreak - is only part of what makes up a disaster. In other words, it is not just the event that is a disaster but also how it affects the community it hits. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies uses this formula to define what a disaster is:

(Vulnerability+Hazard) / Capacity = Disaster

Let's break down this formula a bit.

  • Vulnerability is the diminished capacity of an individual or group to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural or man-made hazard. Some factors that influence vulnerability are poverty, isolation, or lack of defense.
  • Hazard is the actual event (what we usually refer to as disaster). A hazard can be a natural event (tornado, flood, hurricane) or could be caused by human action (oil spill).
  • Capacity is the resources available to individuals, families, or communities cope with a threat of a hazard or to resist the impact of it. These resources could be material or physical, but could also be the organization of the community.

So, it is these three factors that help organizations define what a disaster is. Hopefully, with this information, you can be more informed about the most effective ways to prepare for disasters or respond to disasters in other parts of the world. 

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Praying for Others: Disaster

Complete a spiritual practice that allows you to pray for those affected by disasters.

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Sometimes it is difficult to know how to respond to difficult situations. The Christian tradition (and other religions) believes that prayer is an important component of justice action. Allow this practice to guide your thoughts on the topic of Disaster & Human Dignity and your action when you leave this website.

Try to imagine the experience of a disaster in a community and how these disasters affect a real people.

  • Where are those people located? What is their experience? What is their suffering?
  • What are their individual stories? Who are their friends and family members? What things are important to them?
  • What kind of response is necessary to help them recover with human dignity?

Hold these individuals in your heart and mind as you offer your intentions for their well being. Share your prayer with others at the prayer wall.

To go deeper, see “Praying for Others.” 

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Take Action

Give Blood: American Red Cross

Help people after disasters big and small. Learn how to give blood through the American Red Cross.

After a disaster hits, we all feel stirred to give to those who are left vulnerable by the event. But sometimes what we give doesn't help all that much for various reasons. One gift will always be helpful, though: bloodWhether in large disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes, or personal disaster when people need blood for sickness or injury, there is always a need for blood donation.

One of the greatest needs after a disaster strikes is blood for people who are injured or in life-threatening situations. Learn more about how to donate blood or start a blood drive with the American Red Cross by visiting their website

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