What is the Difference Between a Hazard and a Disaster?

 What is the Difference Between a Hazard and a Disaster?

While many people think that hazards and disasters are the same thing, there IS a difference. Hopefully this short post can help clear it up for you.

A hazard may be natural or man-made and is a situation where there is a threat to life, the environment or property. They have the ‘potential’ to be dangerous and cause damage. A disaster is a step further and is a situation that ‘HAS’ caused loss of lives, mass environmental damages and/or property damage.

If we take an earthquake as an example, we could see it as:

  • Hazard – earthquake shakes in the desert with no threat to life
  • Disaster – earthquake shakes in a heavily populated area, massive damage, lots of people get injured or die.

In both situations it is still an earthquake but it is only classed as a disaster by the damage caused. If we look at a second example of rain, we could say:

  • Hazard – heavy rainfall occurring in a town
  • Disaster – the heavy rain brings flash flooding causing massive damage to communities, life and health.

It is possible to prevent a hazard from turning into a disaster by understanding the potential dangers and taking precautionary steps. Communities that are prone to flooding will often set up flood protection systems to prevent large-scale damage and disaster. If these systems fail, it will however still be a disaster.

The World Health Organisation (W.H.O) say that, “it is the people that matter the most and without the people there is no disaster.” I don’t completely agree with their statement on this. If there is huge loss of animal life, plants and crops, this impacts people too and is still a disaster.

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