Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: December 16, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412972048 | Print ISBN: 9780761929574 | Online ISBN: 9781412972048| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Natural Disasters, Coverage of
Brooke Fisher Liu
Disasters are catastrophic events that share five characteristics: they involve the destruction of property, injury and/or loss of life; they adversely affect a large number of people; they have identifiable beginnings and endings; they are relatively sudden; and they receive extensive news media coverage. Frequently a distinction is made between “natural” and “man-made” disasters with “natural” disasters attributed to climatological phenomena (e.g., hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes) and the cause for “man-made” disasters attributed to human error (e.g., nuclear power plant explosions and chemical spills). This distinction, however, is sometimes hazy. Consider, for example, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which resulted in the displacement of more than 500,000 families. The hurricane was natural, but the hurricane's effects were aggravated by human errors that allowed floods to submerge nearly 80 percent of the city after Katrina made landfall. News media play a pivotal role in preparing the public for disasters and assisting ...