Difference Between Hazard and Disaster

The main difference between hazard and disaster is that hazard is a dangerous situation or event that poses a threat to humans while disaster is an event that actually harms human’s life, property and thus disrupts social activities.

Therefore, a hazard can lead to a disaster that will completely disrupt the life conditions of the victims. However, both hazard and disaster bear potential threat to humans since both can result in loss and damage to life and property. A disaster is more critical in nature than a hazard, which might turn into a disaster in extreme circumstances.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is a Hazard 
     – Definition, Features, Characteristics
2. What is a Disaster
    – Definition, Features, Characteristics
3. What is the Similarity Between Hazard and Disaster
    – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Hazard and Disaster
    – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Biological Hazard, Catastrophe, Destruction, Disaster, Hazard, Man-Made Disaster, Natural Disaster, Geophysical Hazard

Difference Between Hazard and Disaster - Comparison Summary

What is a Hazard?

Hazard is a general occurrence that is risky or dangerous to the affected people. Therefore, they are naturally occurring situations in the world, which cannot be avoided. Furthermore, they pose a threat to our lives.

There are two types of hazards as geophysical and biological. Some geophysical hazards are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, and some biological hazards are disease, infection, etc.

Based on their severity and the place of occurrence, hazards can be classified as disasters or not. Hazards have the potential to disrupt the living conditions of the humans; however, necessary precautions to avoid dangerous results can be taken before the hazard aggravates into a disaster.

Difference Between Hazard and Disaster

Figure 1: Biological Hazards Sign

Therefore, it can be assumed that hazard can also be a precursor to a disaster. Therefore, we can avoid the worse outcomes of a disaster that might follow a hazard if we take good disaster management steps.

What is a Disaster

A disaster has more negative consequences, unlike a hazard. Disaster is a degree of a hazard that has become more threatening. Therefore, a disaster can be defined as an occurrence that completely disrupts the normal life pattern of victims. In brief, a disaster is more catastrophic in nature. Furthermore, unlike a hazard, a disaster is more sudden and thus severe.

Disasters can also be categorized as natural disasters such as tsunami, tornadoes, volcanic eruption, etc., and man-made disasters like the consequence of technological hazards (for example, fires, transport accidents, industrial accidents, oil spills and nuclear explosions/radiation etc.)

However, an occurrence like a tornado in an uninhabited area will be termed as a hazard, and not as a disaster since though it still has destructive properties. This is because even though the severity of the tornado is still there, it did not cause any damage or loss to human life and property as it occurred on an inhabited area.

Main Difference - Hazard vs Disaster

Figure 02: Complete Destruction to Life and Property after a Tornado in a Densely Populated Area

Similarly, think of sudden catastrophic events like a sudden wildfire in a densely populated area that completely results in loss of life and property, eventually disabling the whole social operations. In this case, this event is termed as a disaster.

Since disaster completely disrupts the whole operations of the affected areas, poor and developing countries suffer a lot when affected severely by disasters. Moreover, many people argue that disasters are the consequence of inappropriately managed risk.

Similarity Between Hazard and Disaster

Both hazard and disaster can cause dangerous results to the affected victims.

Difference Between Hazard and Disaster


Hazard is a dangerous situation that poses a threat to human life while disaster is an event that completely causes damage to human life and property.


Disaster has more critical consequences when compared to the threats to the humans from a hazard. Therefore disaster is more catastrophic in nature than a hazard


Disaster happens most often in a short time, thus making more severe while hazard will take its full shape after a series of events, which might have led it to happen. Therefore, necessary precautions can be taken to avoid the negative consequences of a hazard.


Hazard and disaster are occurrences that have dangerous impacts on nature and human lives. The difference between hazard and disaster is that hazard is a dangerous situation or event that poses a threat to humans while disaster is an event that actually harms human’s life, property and thus disrupts social activities.


1. “Natural Hazard.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 June 2018, Available here.
2. “Disaster.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 June 2018, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Biohazard Sign” (Public Domain) via Public Domain Pictures
2. “Tuscaloosa tornado damage 27 April 2011” By National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama –  (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honours) in Languages and Linguistics, has academic experiences and knowledge on international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental Languages, Internal Affairs and International Politics, and Psychology.

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