Newspaper headlines: Landslide sweeps houses away. Evacuate or die, residents told ahead of Hurricane Maria. Community devastated by major earthquake. Children rescued from school following hillside collapse. Flood death toll rises as heavy rain continues

What you see in the headlines

We are familiar with media headlines of major disasters occurring worldwide. But beyond the headlines, in what ways were people and places impacted and to what extent?

  • Who was impacted?

  • Which communities were affected, both directly and indirectly?

  • For how long?

When we study disaster impacts, we are not only considering major disasters that hit media headlines but also ‘everyday disasters’ to which many people, especially in low-income communities, are exposed on a regular basis.

As individual incidents, they may not be of the same magnitude as major disasters but they are disastrous for those directly affected. Cumulatively, they can have a hugely negative impact on communities regularly exposed to events that threaten lives, livelihoods, homes and confidence in the future. Events may impact:

  • At a neighbourhood, household or individual level (eg, household flooding, fire or crop loss)

  • People directly or indirectly through damage to infrastructure and livelihood (eg, power supply or irrigation scheme)

  • Over time – short and long-term (sudden shocks or an accumulation of stresses)

  • Psychologically as well as physically

The potential for those affected to recover is influenced by a range of factors, but many may become stuck in a vicious cycle of disaster impact and incomplete recovery.

If practitioners are to focus solely on big events, they may fail to consider the normal everyday struggles faced by people living in disaster-prone areas.

Your task

Can you find a headline that illustrates an ‘everyday disaster’ and a larger-scale event? What type of ‘disasters’ did you find, and how easy was it to find examples of either?

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Community Preparedness, Recovery and Resilience: An Introduction

Coventry University