Last year, the Emergency Event Database recorded 387 natural hazards and disasters across the globe. These disasters resulted in the loss of 30,704 lives and affected 185 million individuals. Economic losses also reached roughly $223.8 billion.

Do you have a disaster management plan at your organization? Do you know how you would handle and recover from a facility disaster?

If you answer “no,” you’ve come to the right place.

Below is everything you need to know about the four disaster management phases and how to prevent disasters in your organization.

Defining “disasters”

Let’s begin with a basic definition. What constitutes an emergency or disaster?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines a disaster as a “natural catastrophe, technological accident, or human-caused event” that results in “severe property damage, deaths, or multiple injuries.”

In 2023, there were 25 confirmed weather/climate disaster events in the United States, each with losses that exceeded $1 billion.

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

Emergency vs. disaster

Many people use the terms “emergency” and “disaster” interchangeably. There are important distinctions between them, though. Here’s a quick breakdown to help you understand:

  • Emergency: Emergencies are generally localized incidents that can be resolved quickly using local resources.
  • Disaster: Disasters are typically large-scale incidents that cross geographic, political, and academic boundaries. They require a greater response and recovery beyond what local communities can provide.

It’s important to note, too, that small-scale emergencies can turn into disasters if adequate planning hasn’t taken place or if resources are wasted.

Types of disasters

A wide range of natural and artificial events fall under the “disaster” umbrella. The following are some of the most well-known:

  • Earthquakes
  • Avalanches
  • Floods
  • Wildfires
  • Landslides
  • Tsunamis
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Droughts
  • Cyclones
  • Heat waves
  • Cold waves
  • Hailstorms
  • Epidemics and pandemics
  • Technological and biological hazards

Why is disaster management important?

Disaster management—and disaster management planning—matter for several reasons, including the following:

  • Disaster management empowers emergency responders and enhances their ability to save lives.
  • Disaster management improves community resilience.
  • Disaster management promotes public health and reduces disease risk.
  • Disaster management reduces the impact of significant events that could worsen poverty.
  • Disaster management ensures access to clean water, food, and other essentials.
  • Disaster management enhances security and protects individuals as well as organizations.
  • Disaster management protects natural resources.
  • Disaster management strengthens trust in governments, large organizations, and those in leadership positions.

In 2022, 18 separate weather and climate disasters occurred, each costing the United States at least $1 billion.

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

The impact of climate change on natural disasters

It’s also important to note that natural disasters are becoming more common and more severe, primarily due to the impact of global warming. Here are some recent statistics highlighting the growing intensity of natural disasters:

With disasters becoming increasingly common, there is a greater need for disaster management planning to lessen their effect and protect others, especially vulnerable populations.

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Who handles disaster management?

Several individuals and organizations play a role in effective disaster management, including those listed below:


Animal and livestock owners hold unique responsibilities when it comes to disaster management. They are responsible for their animals, other humans, and their property.

Responsible livestock producers should construct safe environments and take appropriate biosecurity measures to protect their animals and those who may consume them. They must also promptly report suspicions of Foreign Animal disease to officials.

Community agencies

Community government agencies should make plans and provide resources to shield citizens from hazards threatening their communities. Examples include mitigation activities and preparedness plans.

State agencies

Each state emergency management office is responsible for protecting all communities and citizens within that state. They should carry out statewide emergency management activities, coordinate planning efforts, and assist individual communities when needed.

Federal agencies

FEMA is the principal source of federal assistance for disaster management education. The organization provides a variety of training courses, many of which are taught through state emergency management agencies. 

FEMA coordinates assistance to businesses and individuals during disasters. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has various programs and authorities to assist specifically to livestock producers and farmers after a major disaster.

Several other federal agencies are involved in disaster relief as well, including the following:

Key disaster terms

Below are specific terms everyone should know regarding disaster and emergency management.

Minor emergency

A minor emergency can be dealt with relatively easily. Examples include residential fires, livestock barn fires, localized chemical spills, livestock trailer wrecks, power outages affecting animal-related businesses (such as farms and veterinary practices), and storm damage caused by wind, hail, and ice.

Limited/potential emergency

Limited and potential emergencies could escalate into more severe issues if they’re not dealt with promptly and correctly. Some examples include localized flooding, hurricane warnings, droughts, nuclear reactor failures, tsunami warnings, and the presumptive diagnosis of a foreign animal disease.

Large-scale disaster

A “large-scale disaster” exceeds the response capabilities of an area’s local jurisdiction and requires State or Federal involvement.

Major disaster

A “major disaster” is a natural catastrophe that the President of the United States determines causes severe enough damage that assistance is required to supplement the efforts and available resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations to minimize damage, loss, hardship, and suffering.

Examples of major disasters include large-scale flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, and foreign animal disease outbreaks.

Climate change has caused the number of weather-related disasters to increase fivefold in the last 50 years.

World Meteorological Organization

What are the 4 phases of disaster management?

A critical part of creating your own disaster management plan is understanding the phases of emergency management and how they make up the disaster management cycle.

The four phases of disaster management are explained in detail below:

The Four Phases of Disaster Management. 1. Mitigation. This phase includes a variety of actions that will prevent or reduce the cause, impact, or consequences of a disaster. 2. Preparedness. The preparedness phase involves planning and training for scenarios that cannot be mitigated. 3. Response. The response phase involves taking action immediately after a disaster occurs. 4. Recovery. The recovery phase involves restoration and the resumption of regular operations and activities.
Infographic: The Four Phases of Disaster Management

1. Mitigation

The first phase is mitigation. This phase includes a variety of actions that will prevent or reduce the cause, impact, or consequences of a disaster. Some examples of mitigation include the following:

  • Using ground anchors to tie down homes or barns so they can withstand wind damage
  • Planting vegetation to absorb water
  • Digging water channels to redirect water
  • Building levees or barriers for flood control
  • Preventing animal escape by reinforcing fencing
  • Purchasing insurance policies

2. Preparedness

The preparedness phase involves planning and training for scenarios that cannot be mitigated. Examples of preparedness include the following:

  • Developing disaster preparedness plans explaining what to do, where to go, or who to call for help
  • Practicing plans with drills and exercises
  • Creating a supply list of potentially useful items
  • Identifying possible vulnerabilities on a property or in a facility

3. Response

The response phase involves taking action immediately after a disaster occurs. Examples of response activities include the following:

  • Implementing disaster response plans
  • Protecting yourself, your family, animals, and others
  • Addressing public perceptions regarding food safety
  • Conducting search and rescue missions

Remember, businesses and other organizations do not function normally during the response phase. Personal safety and well-being are the top priorities for all involved.

4. Recovery

The recovery phase involves restoration and the resumption of regular operations and activities. Examples of recovery activities include the following:

  • Preventing or reducing illnesses or extreme financial burdens
  • Repairing damaged structures
  • Reducing an organization or facility’s vulnerability to future disasters

Disaster prevention tips

Knowing how to respond in an emergency or disaster is critical. However, you must also know how to prevent disasters from occurring in the first place. The following are some preventive maintenance suggestions to help you and your organization avoid disasters:

Use an FCA for disaster management

A facility condition assessment (FCA) helps you understand the current condition of your building(s) and identifies areas that need to be repaired or replaced.

For example, an FCA can help you discover your roof has vulnerable spots. You will then know to perform emergency maintenance and fix them before a big storm hits, saving your building from leaks and water damage and reducing downtime.

Leverage facilities management software for disaster planning

captail planning capabilities in facilities management software includes useful reports like Total Forecasted Replacement Cost, Estimated Replacement Cost, and Top Equipment by Maintenance cost

Facilities management software, like FMX, can significantly streamline the emergency planning and preparedness processes. Our technology helps you meet regulatory compliance and safety standards, reduce maintenance costs, increase productivity, and make data-driven maintenance and preparedness decisions.

The following are just a few examples of how you can use this solution in your organization:

Interested in learning more about how FMX facilities management software can improve your disaster planning process? Schedule a demo today!

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