Emergency Management

When Humans Strike: Man-made Disasters & Emergencies Since 1953

Deciding whether a natural disaster is attributable to human activity is sometimes a controversial and contentious issue.  But there are some incidents that FEMA has recorded through its declaration database that are clear-cut.  After looking through the data, we found that 44 of 3567 FEMA declarations since 1953 are the results of the acts of people.

The chart below is a rundown of disaster & emergency declarations for incidents which can be reasonably construed to have human activity as their ultimate root cause.  They all fall under three general categories – acts of terror, infrastructure failures, and human error.

Startlingly, of 13 declarations made for explosions, 8 of those were related to terrorist actions.  Dam failures and power outages encompass the majority of the remaining incidents.  The debris of space shuttle Columbia was spread over two states and resulted in two emergency declarations.

Note: This list does not include fire-related declarations, as it is not always discernible if a fire was caused by arson, and any damage to an edifice could be interpreted to be the result of human activity.

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