The other week, Pinoy Prepper and I were discussing the overuse of the word 'disaster' within our circles. We concluded that the reasons range from an unfamiliarity with definitions to a purposeful attempt to 'upgrade' the event. It turns out that when a situation is classed as a disaster, more funding is made available to local government and relief organizations. For those who are unaware, the security, risk and emergency management professions have three main classifications for events, each with specific meanings and escalating levels of impact: emergency, disaster and catastrophe. I used these terms interchangeably before getting involved in this field but soon found out that they have different implications.
- Emergency: An emergency is any expected or unexpected event that puts life or property in danger. It needs immediate response but can be handled using the normal resources and infrastructure of the community.
- Disaster: When an event is so disruptive that the affected community requires significant outside help, it becomes a disaster. It may be natural or man-made and related to loss of life, deterioration of health, or damage to infrastructure and services.
- Catastrophe: A catastrophe is the result of a disaster so severe that the community ceases to exist or its continued survival is drawn into question.