Fundamental Theories of Disaster




Fundamental Theories of Disaster


A disaster is an unexpected, quick happening and unfortunate event which greatly jeopardize the activities of a society or a community and may result into economic, environmental and material loss which the affected community may not sustain without external help. This essay   introduces and defines disasters; it discusses four theories of disasters and it is concluded that proper environmental management, education and awareness as well as provision of preventive measures con help to reduce occurrence of disasters.


Fundamental theories of disasters


According to the international Red Cross organization (IFRC), a disaster is a severe occurrence that affects the community economically, environmentally, and socially. There are four theories that this paper will discuss that explains disaster .These include  disaster as an act of God , disaster as an act of nature, disaster as a link between nature and society and disaster as human constructions which can be avoided(what is a disaster? (n.d.). It was a belief that disaster arise from unavoidable situations which might result from improper alignment of planets as well as stars. It can also be considered as a supernaturally controlled act that cannot be explained by human beings. This theory indicates that disasters are totally unpreventable and uncontrollable situations and that disasters are punishments from God towards human failure. It can happen to individual as a result of human disobedience to God or can affect the whole society due to societal failure.

With the advancement in scientific research and discoveries, a lot of explanation have been put forth to counter the supernatural theory of disaster. For example, cause of floods can be explained by presence  of  severe storm and high  rainfall that exceeds soils absorption capability leading creation of a lot of surface run of  that cannot be accommodated by the river basin thus  resulting to spillage over the river banks  with end results  of  people drowning , animals death and flooding in  buildings. These conditions are considered naturally and planning to mitigate them is a challenge (Mileti, 1999).

It is suggested that disaster develop from a synergic effect of both naturally existing risky activities and human actions within an environment. It further indicates that lack of capacity by human beings to mitigate hazards leads to disasters. It is an opinion that human get used to current natural environmental happenings like seismic activity, temperature, rain and snow falls as well as the speed of wind but they however do not recognize alterations in these environmental conditions which might later result into disasters. Earth quake for example is a disaster caused by seismic activities. If only the locations which are active seismically are avoided or strong resistant structures are put up in such areas, then no disaster can occur (Alexander, 1997).

Research has revealed that disasters are particular with certain people, certain geographical areas and human activities .Social construction theory points out on the extent to which a particular section of a population is vulnerable to hazardous activities. This vulnerability may arise from political processes, demographic processes, psychological and economic processes. The processes may not necessarily be bad as depicted in the US where these processes have occurred and with improvements, they live a healthy comfortable and enjoyable life. Reduction of disaster can be achieved through reducing risk factors to people who are economically poor, people with psychological instability, people with less political power and social support. (Mileti, 1999).



Disaster is a serious issue which can lead to loss of human life, animal life and loss of properties. Proper environmental management and preventive measures such as construction of dams and putting up structures which are strong and resistance to seismological activities is necessary towards reducing the chances of occurrence of hazards. Provision of economic support and proper education and awareness on risk analysis and hazard elimination and management to the vulnerable population has the potential to reduce chances of disaster happenings.



Alexander, W. J. (1999) Coping Study on Risk and Society. Paper presented at the IDNDR Programme Forum 1999 “Partnerships for a Safer World in the 21st Century”. Retrieved from

chap1. (n.d.). chap1. Retrieved March 16, 2014, from

Four Theories of Disaster Acts of God or Fate Act of – PowerPoint PPT Presentation. (n.d.). PowerShow. Retrieved March 16, 2014, from

Mileti, D. S., & Mileti, D. S. (1999). Disasters by design: a reassessment of natural hazards in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press.

What is a disaster?. (n.d.). – IFRC. Retrieved March 16, 2014, from Copy & Paste | Parenthetical




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