Understanding Disaster

November 21, 2013, by Ken Jorgustin

sanfrancisco-earthquake-disaster-1906

Know the three types of disaster and the possible damage they can cause to infrastructure. A basic understanding of what it is, and the possible effects, will enable you to make plans to prepare for it…


 

TYPES OF DISASTER

There are 3 basic types of disasters; Natural, Technological, or Intentional.

Natural Disaster

earthquakes
wildfires
floods
extreme heat
hurricanes
landslides
thunderstorms
tornadoes
tsunamis
volcanic eruptions
winter storms
solar flare, CME

Technological Disaster

hazardous material spill
nuclear power plant accident
cyber (unintentional or otherwise)
grid failure (via natural or intentional-terrorism)

Intentional Disaster

terrorism using…

chemical
biological
radiological
nuclear (and/or EMP)
explosive weapons

 

KEY ELEMENTS OF DISASTER

Regardless of the event, disasters have several key elements in common:

They are relatively unexpected, with little or no warning or opportunity to prepare.

Help, emergency responders and services may be unavailable and/or overwhelmed.

Lives, health, and the environment are endangered.

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, needs are often greater than what others can provide.

 

UNDERSTANDING YOUR HAZARD VULNERABILITY

Assessing your own vulnerability to hazards allows you to prioritize preparedness measures and to target effective actions.

It is useful to:

Identify the most common disasters that occur

Identify possible hazards with most severe impact

Consider recent and/or historical impacts

Consider what to expect for disruption impact (e.g. services and length of restoration)

 

EXAMPLES OF POSSIBLE DAMAGE TO INFRASTRUCTURE

 
Transportation
-Inability to assess damage
-Inability to escape or evacuate the area
-Ambulances prevented from reaching victims
-Police prevented from reaching areas of civil unrest
-Fire departments prevented from getting to fires
-Flow of needed supplies (food, water, etc.) is interrupted
-Roads are closed and/or impassable

Structures
-Damaged critical facilities unable to function normally (e.g., airports, hospitals)
-Increased risk of damage from falling debris

Communication Systems
-Victims unable to call for help
-Families and friends cannot communicate
-Emergency services comms possibly disrupted

Utilities
-Loss of electrical service
-Damaged water infrastructure
-Increased risk of fire or electrical shock
-Limited access to fuel, e.g., pumps that may not work
-Loss of contact between victims and service providers

Water Service
-Inadequate water flow, which results in notice to boil water and hampered firefighting capabilities
-Increased risk to public health

Fuel Supplies
-Increased risk of fire or explosion from fuel line rupture

Financial Services
-ATM machines do not work
-Credit card systems inoperable

 
By understanding disaster, we will (should) naturally become motivated to prepare for it and do what we can to mitigate it. Understanding disaster will also provide insight to what others will likely not know or expect, providing you with a plan to cope with the resulting panic or not knowing what to do next…