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Types of Disasters and Preparing for Emergency

Do you know where to go or what to do when disaster strikes? Do you know what to expect for the worst case scenario? We've outlined some of the most catastrophic events and what to expect from them.


One of the most powerful natural disasters is the every-day earthquake. For those who are unfamiliar, an earthquake is when the surface of the earth violently shakes and quakes due to the fact that the earth's crust floats above a sea of molten lava. This eons-long shifting causes stress on the mantle and to relieve that stress, the ground will crack, rupture and split.

No one is safe from an earthquake so long as we live on the surface of the planet. Each of the 50 United States and 5 territories are at risk for a life-altering, catastrophic tremor any day of the year. They are impossible to predict when, where or how strong they end up being as even a 3.0 on the Richter Magnitude Scale has potential to cause damage. The Richter Scale is a logarithmic scale of damage where, for example, a 5.0 releases 31.6 times more energy than a 4.0. Several million 2.0 earthquakes are registered worldwide every year so the possibility of stronger, more powerful earthquakes is immense.


A firestorm is a thermal column that is a result of the stack effect where the center of a large fire draws in an increasing amount of the surrounding air, in turn, creating a low-level jet-stream above the fire. This process creates a massive vortex of all of the elements of nature" smoke, ash, heat, wind and fire. This disaster has an erratic, frequently changing direction and can spawn many more supplementary fires.

Oxygen depletion is of high concern as fires consume oxygen as they burn. Apart from the fact that choking smoke and soot will immediately fill your lungs, a lack of oxygen has been known to be fatal. Instead of the fire column burning objects ahead of its path, it must engulf something in order to consume it as objects are drawn inward and ignite.

Although occurring primarily in dry, highly forested areas, urban firestorms are not uncommon. These fires can smolder underground for days and then spew above ground to consume many square miles of city blocks. These can also be caused by humans as either a firebombing or run-of-the-mill arson but quickly get out of control in tight, highly urbanized locales.



Waterstorms are a common enough occurrence but usually go by the names of "rain", "hurricane" or "typhoon". Hurricanes are tropical cyclones that form over the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The counterclockwise circulation of air and wind draws water from the surface of the ocean and up into the sky. The Eastern and Southeastern seaboards are highly susceptible to this type of inclement weather which progresses to torrential rains, flooding and high winds. Hurricane Season can be seen on any news program between mid-May and throughout November.

While meteorology is a science, accurately predicting the next storm or super-storm is not and much guesswork is committed to foretelling of the next storm system. Winds can exceed 155 MPH and cover great distances in a few short hours but anticipating the direct path of a storm is problematic and nearly impossible. Hurricanes that progress more slowly cause more damage as they have more time to tear through town and intentionally ruin local's lives. When a hurricane makes landfall, the water that it deposits on the ground must flow and usually causes flash-floods, landslides and temporary swimming pools.



As mentioned in the earthquake segment, the crust of the Earth rests on a layer of molten lava. After an earthquake, or any time really, that lava can burst through the surface in the form of a volcano. Usually, volcanoes take the form of a mountain that has a fairly straightforward connection to an underground reservoir of magma. These mountains develop over millennia as they are pushed up from below the surface as lava continually erupts over millions of years. These eruptions do not have to be cataclysmic, but often are, releasing enormous flows of lava, pyroclastic flows comprised of ash, rock and poisonous gasses which are disbursed hundreds of miles away.

Pyroclastic flows generate intense heat, fine volcanic ash, acidic choking gasses and crushed rock that can damage people as well as property. Volcanic ash damages machines such as cars, farm and electrical equipment. When ash combines with water, it will weigh down roofs causing them to collapse and, when mixed with open bodies of water or drinking water reservoirs, will kill off life. Ash disseminates into the air in a huge column and can settle anywhere on the globe making volcanic eruptions one of the most dangerous world-wide disasters.

Eruptions can be so forceful that, if the event occurs on the side of a mountain such as in a lateral blast, rock can be shot several miles at super high speeds with enough energy to knock down an entire forest. Immediate danger encompasses a zone of a 20-mile radius extending up to a 100-mile radius for a danger potential of up to 3,142 square miles.

Infectious Disease

We are all intimately familiar with being sick as it is impossible to avoid all ailments and illnesses. However, not all diseases are equal and in this modern area, some are more deadly than others. As a result of hand washing and antibiotics, our immune systems are less resilient when it comes to infectious agents that are lab-grown or evolve to be more potent. Although highly efficient and contagious infections like the ebola virus, hantavirus and the plague are all heavy-hitting and highly lethal strains, influenza is a regular and relatively potent seasonal infection.

Approximately a third of all people infected with influenza, or the flu, are asymptomatic and show no outward signs of being infected. This allows them to carry the infection among the general population, exposing all members of the public such as women, children, the elderly and you, to what could potentially kill them. In the event of a mass outbreak that affects millions of people there is little to be done to stem the tide of death and despair. Once the general population is infected, if the disease is slow-acting, taking several weeks for people to become symptomatic, enough of a community will be infected that treating thousands or millions of people becomes impossible. If an infection is highly aggressive, manifesting in just a couple of days, those that are infected have less chance to expose others but treatment may be too little, too late in diagnosing and treating such an illness takes time.