Ayanna V. Buckner, MD, MPH


October 07, 2009

In This Article

Disaster Categorization

The US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS) categorizes disasters as man-made or natural. Man-made disasters are typically associated with an element of human intent, negligence, or error, or they may involve a failure of a man-made system. Examples of man-made disasters include acts of terrorism and radiation emergencies.[6] Natural disasters are a result of natural, environmental forces. Examples of natural disaster include earthquakes, floods, and extreme heat and cold. Both types of disasters can cause severe threats to public health and well-being, which must be addressed through proper planning and preparedness.[7,8]

Whether a disaster comes with or without warning, it may force the evacuation of neighborhoods, cities, or, conceivably, an entire state or region. Everyone should consider what to do in an emergency, particularly if basic services such as water, gas, electricity, or telephones are not operational for an extended period of time. Clinicians should be aware of such plans and knowledgeable about whom to contact in an emergency situation.[9] The next logical step is to address a potential loss of critical services with patients who may rely on these services for the preservation of medications or to power medical equipment.


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