EENS 3050/6050

Natural Disasters

Prof. Stephen A. Nelson

Tulane University

Disaster Summary

Spring 2018



As noted in the syllabus, the Disaster Summary is worth 20% of your grade (15% if you are in the 6050 section of the course) and is to be turned in on the last day of class. The disaster Summary should only consider natural disasters, that is those that occur without the aid of humans. Such things as oil and toxic materials spills, airplane crashes (unless caused by something like a hurricane or volcanic eruption), and human induced explosions should not be considered.   Wildfires should be included, even though we don't cover them in class.  Droughts and disease empidemics, however, should not be included for reasons that we discuss in class. 

The Disaster Summary will consist of information, as outlined below, on the10 worst disasters that have occurred during the time period of the course January 16 to May 1, 2018).  The worst disasters will be those with the greatest number of casualties and/or economic damage.  It is possible that each student's summary of the worst 10 disasters will differ as in some cases not enough information is available to determine the actual economic damage.  In order to come up with the worst 10, each student will have to keep track of all disasters throughout the time period of the course, then in the days before the summary is due, determine which of the disasters are among the worst 10.   Helpful hints on how to keep track of the world's disasters using the internet will be provided in the first homework assignment.  Still, you should keep in mind that disasters with only one or two casualties and/or one or two damaged structures are not likely to be among the worst 10, and thus can probably be safely ignored when you come across such events.  I have found that using news subscription services such as those available on and/or which send you email based on key words, is the best way to keep updated on a daily basis of disasters throughout the world.  I use key words like - disaster, cyclone, hurricane, tornado, sinkhole, landslide, mudslide, eruption, wildfire, earthquake, etc.  Although these generate lots of email, you can quickly read the summaries to determine which ones have the potential for being among the 10 worst.   You can then go to the links for these potentially worst disasters, print the web pages, and keep them for ultimately determining the worst disasters. 

Note that not all information on a disaster usually comes out with the first news release.  Imagine that there is flood that begins somewhere on February 17th . On the first day 600 homes are flooded resulting in 400 million dollars in property damage, with no lives lost. But the flooding continues for another two weeks. Each day the news media reports new events, such as number of new homes flooded, number of lives lost, loss estimates in various towns, etc. You should try to keep track of all of this information for your summary. What you will turn in at the end of the course in your Disaster Summary is a summary of the entire disaster, rather than the notes you keep to compile this summary.

Note also that events like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that occur in sparsely populated areas, even though they may be large events, if they don't cause casualties or property damage, are not likely to be among the 10 worst disasters. Disaster like droughts and disease epidemics are difficult to keep track of because they have no beginning date, a fuzzy ending date, and damage estimates only come out sporadically.  Because of this, the summary of the 10 worst disasters should not not include droughts and disease epidemics.

Any disaster that is ongoing at the beginning of the semester is to be considered as potentially one of the top 10 worst disasters.  For any disaster that begins during the semester, but is not completely finished by the end of the semester, you should report as much information that is available up to the deadline to turn in the summary.


The final disaster summary must be typewritten and should include the following information

  • Location of the Disaster (be careful here - countries like Indonesia, Russia, and China are large countries, so just reporting the country name is not a sufficient location).
  • Type of Disaster (i.e hurricane, earthquake, eruption, landslide, etc.)
  • Beginning and ending dates and times of the disaster
  • A description of the disaster and a short statement as to the cause of the disaster
  • The total economic loss due to property damage, lost business, downtime, cleanup, and recovery etc., if available (in dollars).  If a monetary figure is not available, provide information on such things as the number of structures destroyed, the number of people affected, the number of acres destroyed, number of livestock destroyed, etc.

  • The total number of human casualties (injuries and deaths)

  • Sources of information (Newspaper and magazine articles, television and radio reports, and internet URLs)
  • Mitigation - A well thought out statement of what, if anything could have been done by humans to have prevented or reduced the economic damage and number of casualties for each disaster. This mitigation statement will be a significant part of your grade on this assignment. Note that you should state the best possible mitigation for each disasters, regardless of whether or not the people in the region can afford the mitigation methods.


Although you may work with others on this log, the final work must be yours, in your own words. Thus, exact duplicates of summaries that are copied word for word from another person will be considered a violation of the honor code.

The Disaster Summary must be in chronological order (earliest to latest) as near as is possible.  Part of the grade will be based on the ease with which the instructor can read and grade the summary - appearance will count.  Do not turn in binders or covers.  Stapled sheets of paper are all that is required.  Binders and covers make it more difficult for the instructor to stack the summaries without them causing a landslide.  Use a 12 point type face.  If the instructor has to dig out a magnifying glass to read the disaster summary, he will not be inclined to award points for ease of reading and grading. A format that makes it easy to find information (i.e. disaster title, followed by subheadings (like location, type, dates, econonmic losses, casualties, mitigation, sources) as outlined above, will make it much easier for the intstructor to grade your summary.


Before turning in your disaster summary, the grading sheet below should be copied and pasted onto the last page of the disaster summary.. Points will be deducted if this grading sheet is not included.  

Identified Disasters ________________x6 _____________/60
Presentation/Appearance    _____________/10
Descriptions   _____________/10
Mitigation Statements    _____________/20
Total   _____________/100




Abbreviations used in grading

NMD –          Not a major disaster

BC -              Before Course began

SDAA -         Same disaster as above

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