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Disaster Relief

What is a natural disaster? 

Natural Disasters are forces of nature or events that cause destruction of life and/or property.  Forces of nature like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and volcanic eruptions are all examples of natural disasters.  Additionally, widespread health epidemics, such as the recent Ebola outbreak, SARS or the Avian Flu epidemic, are also considered to be natural disasters.

 Who is affected by natural disasters? 

Anyone in the world can be affected by natural disaster.  Some natural disasters are more likely depending on where you live.  For example, a person living in San Francisco, California is likely to be affected by an earthquake.  However, it’s very unlikely that a person living in Columbus, Ohio will be affected by an earthquake.

Why are natural disasters a problem for people?

Depending on what natural disaster occurs, many different things can happen.  When forces of nature are involved, lots of times power and water supply are lost.  Property (like homes or backyards) can be damaged or even destroyed.  With some natural disasters such as tsunami’s, landslides, and volcanic eruptions there is a greater likelihood of a large loss of human life because these types of natural disasters often give very little warning before they occur.  If a health epidemic is involved, large numbers of people may be quarantined, which means they cannot leave an area until the chance of spreading or catching the disease has passed. The severity of the disease and the amount of access to health care the people have will greatly influence the number of deaths that occur from the epidemic.  

What can people do to help?

Unfortunately, humans can’t do much to stop natural forces. However, many scientists believe that climate change is beginning to contribute to an increase in natural disasters (for more information, see the Climate Change section under the Environment category).  What we can do is can help people after a natural disaster occurs.  We can help by sending food and supplies, donating clothes, fundraising, and even helping with rebuilding homes or paying for medical care. We can also help pets that get lost during a natural disaster by helping them to find homes again.  Another way to help is by educating people who live in places where natural disasters are more common.  People at risk of natural disaster can learn what to do if one occurs and how to be prepared ahead of time.

Learn More

Learn about different types of disastersLearn how to build an emergency safety kit to be prepared(PDF) Books on this topic(PDF) Service project ideas

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