Learn about hazards, threats and risks from disasters to you and your animals.

Based on the book "Animal Management in Disasters" you can read comprehensive information on all aspects of animal care in disasters. Each article provides an in depth understanding of the most common natural and technological hazards and practical information on specific actions to keep animals and owners safe.

Summer Weather

Severe summer weather and its sequelae are the single greatest cause of human death in natural disasters in the United States. The greatest damage is the result of thunderstorms, flooding, lightning, wind, hail, and tornadoes. Although the effect of thunderstorms is invariably localized, the storms occur so frequently that the total deaths, injuries, and damages exceed all other disasters together. Each year approximately 100,000 thunderstorms develop in the United States. Of these, approximately 10% (10,000) are severe and about 3% (3000) produce tornadoes.


Hurricanes are the largest, most destructive, and costliest disasters that affect the United States. Every year 40 to 70 million people are at risk of damage from hurricanes. The entire weather system of a hurricane is usually greater than 1000 miles in diameter. Within that system gale-force winds cover over 400 miles and hurricane-force winds over 100 miles. On the average, six Atlantic hurricanes occur each year. Most occur in August, September, and October, but the entire 6-month period from June 1 to November 30 is considered the Atlantic hurricane season. Throughout history damage and death from hurricanes have been vast.

Extreme Heat

Droughts and Heat

Droughts are probably the single most expensive disaster to the animal care industries in the United States. This is because vast areas of the United States can be affected by drought, and much of the livestock industry is affected.

Winter Weather

Cold winter weather may be responsible for more deaths of animals than any other type of disaster. Every part of the United States has experienced snowfall at some time in recorded history. Depending on the degree of preparedness, even small amounts of snow or unexpectedly low temperatures and wind can have devastating effects on animal health and survival, animal care businesses, and personal life.


Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States and are responsible for approximately 75% of all federal disaster declarations. Causes of flooding include dam and levee failures. Dam failures may follow excessive rainfall or melted snow. Earthquakes can weaken or cause dams to collapse.

No area in the United States is completely free from the threat of floods. Floodplains cover 7% (94 million acres) of the United States and 15% of all urban areas. Over 10 million residential and commercial buildings and 80% of the nation’s wetlands are located in floodplains. Each year, on the average, floods drive more than 300,000 people from their homes, 200 flood-related fatalities occur, and $4 billion in total flood damage is sustained. Severe floods are associated with the highest suicide rates when compared with the rates of all disasters. Many domestic animals, livestock, and wildlife are affected by floods.


Every year nearly 2 million fires in the United States threaten human and animal life. Fires cause over 5000 human deaths and $8 billion in damages in the United States every year.

Fires are considered catastrophic when five or more people die in a residential fire or three or more people die in a nonresidential fire. It is likely that many animals also die in fires, but their numbers are not recorded officially. Therefore, most of our knowledge of animal injuries and death from fires comes from reports in the media.


Major earthquakes have occurred in relatively recent history throughout most of the United States. It has been estimated that 109 million people and 4.3 million businesses in 39 states are at risk of earthquakes.

Hazardous Materials

Hazardous material (HAZMAT) spills are perhaps the single most common type of disaster that occurs in the United States. Hazmat incidents can occur in the home or workplace, where they may be limited in scope, but they also occur in public places, such as in transportation accidents and oil spills at sea. This is not surprising given the facts that every year approximately 1.6 million carloads of hazardous materials are transported on U.S. railways and many more tons are transported on U.S. roads.

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Recommended Reading

This book provides comprehensive information on all aspects of animal care in disasters; an in depth understanding of natural and technological hazards; and practical information on specific procedures to keep animals and owners safe. 

This book provides In depth discussions of the role of animal owners, emergency managers, volunteers, liability and business continuity during natural and technological hazards. Practical information to engage communities in mitigating adverse impacts of disasters on animals and their owners.

Are you an expert on one or more of the hazards and want to share your knowledge with the animaldisasters.com community? Submit your recommendations here.