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Investigating key emergency and disaster terms

We will now further consider the key terms that you’ve discussed: hazard and risk; vulnerability, resilience and capacity; emergency, disaster and major incident.

To help get you started, here are some ‘introductory definitions’ of some of these terms:


The intrinsic property of a dangerous substance, phenomenon, or physical situation, with a potential for creating damage to human health, property, and/or the environment.


A combination of the probability or frequency of a specific hazard and the magnitude of the consequences of that hazard if it were to be realised (i.e. to ‘occur’).


The characteristics or circumstances of a person, group of people, or a ‘community’, determined by physical, social, economic, or environmental factors, which increase the susceptibility of that person, group of people, or a ‘community’ to a realised (‘occurred’) hazard.


The ability of a person, group of people, or a ‘community’ to withstand and respond or ‘bounce-back’ from a disaster.


A combination of all the strengths and resources available within a ‘community’, society or organisation that can reduce the level of risk, or the effects of a disaster.

Sometimes the term ‘capability’ is used in place of ‘capacity’. What differences do you see between the two terms?

Your task

Compare and contrast the key terms explored above in the following documents:

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction definitions of key terms and the UK Civil Protection Lexicon definitions of key terms..

Are any of the above terms found on one of these sources, but not the other?

What are the differences between the two sources, in respect of the definitions that each source covers and the concepts conveyed by these definitions?

Are there differences in perspective between the two sources?

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This article is from the free online course:

Emergencies and Disasters: Trends and Issues

Coventry University