Deaths from natural disasters have declined significantly over the past century, from more than 500,000 in 1920 to about 15,000 in 2020. Earlier prediction capabilities, more resilient infrastructure, and improved emergency preparedness and response systems have helped reduce the death toll and lower the economic impact of natural and human-made disasters. Still, implementing a comprehensive disaster recovery plan is key to preventing damage from future disasters and — most importantly — saving lives.
To learn more, check out the infographic below, created by Tulane University’s Online Master of Public Health in Disaster Management program.
Overview of Human-Made and Natural Disasters
Certain shock events, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, drastically pushed global annual disaster deaths over 200,000, accounting for more than 0.4 percent of deaths in those years. However, most natural disasters have an annual death toll of 60,000, or 0.1 percent of global deaths.
Types of Natural Disasters
Natural disasters may include earthquakes, volcanic activity, landslides, droughts, wildfires, storms, and flooding. Droughts and floods have historically been the most fatal natural disasters, but today, earthquakes are the deadliest type.
Impact of Natural Disasters
A natural disaster can have a devastating impact, often leading to death, injury, illness, destruction of property, financial loss, grief, shock, and mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Other possible effects include decreased GDP, reduced tax revenue, loss of infrastructure, and loss of local revenue. A community hit by a natural disaster may be at increased risk of developing and spreading communicable diseases, poisoning, and infection.
Types of Human-Made Disasters
Human-made disasters include nuclear meltdowns, underwater oil spills, chemical explosions, mine collapses, toxic waste spills or leaks, mud volcanoes, ocean pollution, and cyberattacks.
Between 1945 and 1962, the U.S. conducted nuclear testing that severely impacted the health of workers and Americans living in “downwind” areas. The estimated death toll is between 340,000 and 690,000.
In 1962, the Great Smog of London persisted for five days and halted air travel. In addition to an estimated death toll of 12,000, 150,000 people were hospitalized, and thousands of animals died.
The infamous Chernobyl explosion of 1986 killed 30 people within three months and impacted hundreds of thousands more in nearby cities.
Another human-made disaster that shook the world was the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Eleven million gallons of oil spilled in Alaska’s Prince William Sound and killed an estimated 302 seals and 2,800 otters.
The 2013 Flint water crisis also took many lives. It increased caused exposure to lead and coliform bacteria, which caused up to 119 deaths from pneumonia.
Impact of Human-Made Disasters
Human-made disasters can lead to illnesses such as thyroid cancer, acute radiation, pneumonia, leukemia and other forms of cancer, and Legionnaires’ disease.
Individuals impacted by this type of disaster can also experience mercury poisoning, chronic health issues, decreased fertility rates, and birth defects.
Human-made disasters may cause homelessness, financial loss, the need to relocate, destruction of animal habitats, death of wildlife, mass poisoning from air pollution, and contaminated drinking water.
How to Create a Disaster Recovery Plan
A well-developed disaster recovery plan (DRP) could be the difference between minor losses and catastrophic damage. That’s why every business should invest time and resources into creating, testing, and adjusting its DRP.
10 Key Steps for Disaster Recovery Planning
The first step is to obtain preliminary input from experts and stakeholders, such as employees and vendors. Next, take inventory and assess disaster impact. Analyze each asset and service to see how long the business can run without suffering financial loss, negative impact on reputation, or regulatory penalties.
Then, identify recovery metrics and objectives to determine how quickly the business needs to recover. The next step is to conduct a risk assessment that identifies all possible risks and vulnerabilities.
Step five involves identifying the scope of the disaster recovery plan. Then, identify the best type of disaster recovery plan — whether that’s a data center DRP, virtualization-based DRP, cloud-based DRP, or disaster recovery as a service (DraaS).
Go on to create a disaster recovery playbook that includes important business information, such as employee names and contact information, the point of contact for disaster recovery, information packets, and vendor details.
Test the disaster recovery plan through one or more of the following options: a walk-through test, simulation test, parallel test, and full interruption test.
Make the necessary adjustments and create a communication plan. Be sure to conduct employee awareness training, too.
Tips for Disaster Recovery and Prevention
Though many disasters are unpredictable, every individual and business can take proactive steps to protect themselves and their property.
Tips for Disaster Recovery
Begin by checking for injuries and administering first aid. Contact the local emergency manager and prioritize the safety of family and loved ones. Use a battery-powered radio to obtain emergency updates.
Be careful when returning to a property. File an insurance claim as soon as you’re able and inform local authorities about health and safety concerns.
Tips for Preventing Cyberattacks
The first step to prevention is to stay aware of threats to cybersecurity; these include identity theft, phishing attacks, and imposter scams. Install security software on electronic devices and avoid opening suspicious emails or files.
Enable two-factor authentication and create strong, unique passwords.
Increase organizational vigilance and security, and be sure to update software and devices as soon as new updates are available.
Disasters range from floods and wildfires to cyberattacks. Developing a disaster recovery plan ahead of time will help reduce losses and speed up recovery, for both individuals and businesses.
ACL, “Tips to Recognize, Prevent, or Reduce Cyberattacks and Cybercrimes” Business Insider, “9 Man-Made Disasters That Had a Big Impact on Our World”
FEMA, “Building a Culture of Cyber Preparedness”
Live Science, “10 of The World’s Biggest Man-made Disasters”
Our World in Data, “Natural Disasters”
Ready, “Recovering From Disaster”
Sciencing, “What Are the Negative Effects of Natural Disasters?”
Spiceworks, “10 Best Practices for Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP)”
Tulane University, “A Closer Look at the Long-Term Health Consequences of Natural Disasters”