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Regular and reliable data on hazards, risks, vulnerabilities and disasters over time at all levels are critical for designing policies, strategies and programmes for disaster risk management and for monitoring progress achieved in that direction. Unfortunately hazard and vulnerability data are scattered in multiple sources and disaster data are not archived in most of the countries in a systematic manner. Many academic and scientific institutions have developed disaster database, but there is hardly any country that can be credited with a sound statistical system on hazards.

In the United States, the University of South Carolina has been maintaining a Spatial Hazard Event and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS) since 1960. The National Climatic Data Centre (NCDC) of the NOAA maintains climate related hazard and disaster data for well over sixty years. The Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness (OCIPEP) of Canada records natural, technological, and conflict-related disasters that affect Canadian citizens. Emergency Management Australia (EMA) is the primary resource for all national level natural and technological disasters The Department of Social Welfare and Development of Government of Philippines has developed a Disaster Response Operations Monitoring & Information Center (DROMIC). In India the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) and the National Institute of Disaster Management has taken a joint initiative of developing a national disaster statistical system.

Among the international database on disasters, the most credible are the archives maintained by the IFRC, LARED, NATCAT and EM-DAT. The International Federation of Red Cross publishes annually since 1993 World Disasters Report which brings together facts, trends and analysis of disasters of the year whether natural or manmade. The Report is annexed with detailed statistical information on the disasters of the year in global perspectives, which are mostly drawn from various sources.

The Network for Social Studies on Disaster Prevention in Latin America (LA RED) - a coalition of non-governmental actors across 16 countries in Latin America and Caribbean – manages DesInventar which specializes in extracting disaster data from multiple sources like media, NGOs etc. This has the advantage of capturing disaster losses in informal sector, but has the danger of sometimes over reporting the losses. Customized version of Desinventar has been adopted by many Indian States (Orissa, Tamil Nadu, UP, Delhi andUttaranchal), Nepal, Phillipines, Indonesia, Srilanka and Maldives.

NatCat and Sigma are highly sophisticated databases managed by Munich Re and Swiss Re respectively, two of the world’s largest reinsurance companies. NatCat has created its own methodology for calculating economic losses from major disasters, which is verified by loss estimates from the field. Sigma presents annual information on insured property losses, plus economic and human losses, from large natural and technological disasters. Both companies provide limited information on countries with low insurance density. This reduces their data coverage for Africa, Asia and Latin America, particularly in rural areas. Further NatCat and Sigma data are not available in public domain.

The Emergency Disasters Data Base (EM-DAT) is managed by Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Cathloic University of Leuven. EM-DAT is the most complete publicly accessible international database on disasters around the world. It has developed core data on over 14,000 disasters in the world from 1900 to the present. The database is compiled from various sources, including UN agencies, national governments, NGOs, insurance companies, research institutions and press agencies.

The Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC) developed a globally common Unique ID code for disasters, which has been accepted by CRED, ReliefWeb, OCHA/FSCC, ISDR, UNDP, WMO, IFRC, OFDA-USAID, FAO, La Red and the World Bank. All these organizations have jointly launched as a new initiative GLIDE for the promotion and use of a common resource code on disasters.

Different national and international database on disasters have adopted different criteria and indicators for defining disasters interms of deaths, injuries and losses. The following matrix provides an index of these indicators.

Deaths 10 or more people 10 or more people Any number Any number No criteria One or more person
Injured Not used as a criteria Not used as a criteria One or more person     One or more person
Affected 100 or people 100 or people One or more person One or more person No criteria One or more person
Property Loss     property loss/damage to environment property loss $50,000 One or more person
Emergency declared declaration of a state of emergency   No such criteria No such criteria No criteria One or more person
Call for external assistance call for international assistance   No such criteria No such criteria No criteria One or more person

Thirty Years of Natural Disasters 1974-2003: The numbers, CRED
EM-DAT – The International Disaster Database
Weekly Disaster Updates
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