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Natural Disaster Preparedness: Overview

Learn more about some of the more common natural disasters that can occur and how to prepare and respond effectively to an environmental threat.

Natural Disaster Data & Resources

What is a natural disaster?

A natural disaster is a sudden catastrophic event, occurring as a result of earth's natural processes, that can wreak havoc on people and property. Some of these events happen only in certain areas of the planet; others can happen anywhere at any time. Some are the result of geologic processes beyond our control; others are meteorological in nature, and can be predicted well in advance. In all cases, the loss of life, personal injury, and financial and sentimental loss can be immense.

This online resource guide features in-depth information and data on the most common types of environmental hazards, the organizations dedicated to studying and helping to mitigate the death and damage their destructive power can cause, and helpful tips for how you can recognize, prepare, and respond to these environmental hazards should the unthinkable ever occur.

Watch vs. Warning

In instances of extreme weather or forecasted storms, you may see your local weather channel or emergency weather station issuing a "tornado watch" or a "hurricane warning". What's the difference?

When a watch is issued, it means that conditions are such that the forecasted weather anomaly or storm could easily happen, but it has not yet and may even dissipate. Staying alert and cautious is recommended, but emergency precautions are not yet required.

When a warning is issued, it means that the forecasted severe weather hazard is either already occurring or is directly imminent. In a watch situation, immediate safety precautions depending on the hazard in question should be observed, particularly if you are in or near a heavily affected area.

Natural Disaster Organizations & Agencies