The present glossary wishes to provide for general public, as simple explanation as possible, of the main risk and safety concepts encountered in the website: its goal is not thus to provide unanimously agreed definitions.

The basis of this Glossary is Glossary on Emergency Management, which has been developed in 2001 by European Centre of Technological Safety (TESEC) of Euro-Mediterranean network of Centres EUR-OPA Major Hazard Agreement of Council of Europe in collaboration with other centres of network. The Glossary contained definitions of the basic terms related to emergency and disaster management. These terms definitions are collected from different national and international documents related to that area.



Acceptable risk
Degree of risk for human and material loss that is perceived by the community or relevant authorities as tolerable in actions to minimize disaster risk.
Signal giving warning of danger.
Advisory that hazard is approaching but is less imminent than implied by warning message.
Alluvial fan floods
Alluvial fan floods usually occur when the threatened areas are at the passage between the mountain and flat areas or mountain and sea coast. They are particularly dangerous since they often pass through urbanized areas.
Survey of a real or potential disaster to estimate the actual or expected damages and to make recommendations for prevention, preparedness and response.
Rapid flow of snow down a slope, from either natural triggers or human activity.
Awareness Message
An awareness message informs people about the nature of hazards around them, motivates them to get more information, and gives simple safety tips.


A person injured and needing medical treatment or killed because of man-made or natural disasters.
An event in which a society incurs, or is in danger of incurring, such losses to persons and/or property that the entire society is affected and extraordinary resources and skills are required, some of which must come from other nations.
Chemical Accident
Accidental release occurring during the production, transportation or handling of hazardous chemical substances.
Civil Defence
The system of measures, usually run by a governmental agency, to protect the civilian population in wartime, to respond to disasters, and to prevent and mitigate the consequences of major emergencies in peacetime.
Climatic Change
Change observed in the climate on a global, regional or sub-regional scale caused by natural processes and/or human activity.
Climate Crisis
Climate Crisis is a term describing global warming (as a consequence of human-induced climate change) and its impacts. This term and the term climate emergency have been used to describe the threat of global warming to humanity and the planet, and to urge aggressive climate change mitigation. The term Climate Crisis refers to the serious problems that are being caused or likely to be caused by changes in the world’s weather, in particular global warming, as a result of human activity increasing the level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Climate Change
The term Climate Change may be defined as a “change observed in the climate of a global, regional or sub-regional scale caused by both natural processes and/or human activity”.
Coastal Floods
Coastal flooding in combination with other flood types (mainly riverine) result in floods with huge losses. The most important types of coastal floods are:
Storm surge floods, estuarine floods, floods caused by powerful pressing wind, floods resulting from tsunamis.
Result of a specific event.
Cultural Heritage
Based on the UNESCO's Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972, the following shall be considered as cultural heritage: Monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science. Groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science. Sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and of man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological points of view.
Cultural Landscape
At its sixteenth session in December 1992 the World Heritage Committee adopted three main categories of cultural landscapes (UNESCO 14 December 1992: 54-55) and included guidelines concerning their inclusion in the World Heritage List in the Operational Guidelines (UNESCO February 1996: 10-12, Paragraphs 35 to 42).

Paragraphs 36 to 38 of the Operational Guidelines provide some definition of cultural landscapes.

36. Cultural landscapes represent the "combined works of nature and of man" designated in Article 1 of the Convention. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal. They should be selected on the basis both of their outstanding universal value and of their representativity in terms of a clearly defined geo-cultural region and also for their capacity to illustrate the essential and distinct cultural elements of such regions.

37. The term "cultural landscape" embraces a diversity of manifestations of the interaction between humankind and its natural environment.

38. Cultural landscapes often reflect specific techniques of sustainable land-use, considering the characteristics and limits of the natural environment they are established in, and a specific spiritual relation to nature. Protection of cultural landscapes can contribute to modern techniques of sustainable land-use and can maintain or enhance natural values in the landscape. The continued existence of traditional forms of land-use supports biological diversity in many regions of the world. The protection of traditional cultural landscapes is therefore helpful in maintaining biological diversity (UNESCO February 1996: 10-11).

Paragraph 39 of the Operational Guidelines refers to cultural landscapes as falling into three main categories - the clearly defined landscape, the organically evolved landscape (including relict (or fossil) landscapes and continuing landscapes) and associative cultural landscapes (UNESCO February 1996: 11).

Paragraphs 40 to 42 of the Operational Guidelines provide some further guidance concerning the inclusion of cultural landscapes in the World Heritage List (UNESCO February 1996: 11-12).

Since 1992 several regional and thematic meetings on the subject of cultural landscapes of outstanding universal value have been held (see for example, von Droste et al 1995, von Droste et al 1995: Annexes II to VI and UNESCO 21 April 1996).
An atmospheric system characterized by the rapid inward circulation of air masses about a low-pressure center, usually accompanied by stormy, often destructive weather. Cyclones circulate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.


Dam failure
The event of uncontrolled release or surges of impounded water due to dam damage resulting in downstream flooding.
Dam-break floods
They happen very rarely but cause many casualties. The permanent control of the hydro technical installations, organization of the warnings and protection of the threatened population are of great importance.
Damage Assessment
The preparation of specific, quantified estimates of physical damage resulting from a disaster, and recommendations concerning the repair, reconstruction or replacement of structures, equipment, and the restoration of economic (including agricultural) activities. Also, the appraisal or determination of the actual effects on human, economic, and natural resources resulting from man-made or natural disasters.
Environmental crisis which produces conditions or landscapes close to those of a desert.
A serious disruption of the functioning of society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses which exceed the ability of affected society to cope using only its own resources. Disasters are often classified according to their cause (natural or manmade).
Disaster Control
Control Measures were taken before, during, or after natural or man-made disasters to reduce the probability of damage, minimize its effects, and initiate recovery.
Disaster impact
The total effect, including negative effects (e.g., economic losses) and positive effects (e.g., economic gains), of a hazardous event or a disaster. The term includes economic, human and environmental impacts, and may include death, injuries, disease and other negative effects on human physical, mental and social well-being.

For the purpose of the scope of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (para. 15), the following terms are also considered:

  • Small-scale disaster: a type of disaster only affecting local communities which require assistance beyond the affected community.
  • Large-scale disaster: a type of disaster affecting a society which requires national or international assistance.
  • Frequent and infrequent disasters: depend on the probability of occurrence and the return period of a given hazard and its impacts. The impact of frequent disasters could be cumulative, or become chronic for a community or a society.
  • A slow-onset disaster is defined as one that emerges gradually over time. Slow-onset disasters could be associated with, e.g., drought, desertification, sea-level rise, epidemic disease.
  • A sudden-onset disaster is one triggered by a hazardous event that emerges quickly or unexpectedly. Sudden-onset disasters could be associated with, e.g., earthquake, volcanic eruption, flash flood, chemical explosion, critical infrastructure failure, transport accident.
Disaster Mitigation
Taking sustained actions to reduce or eliminate risk to people and property from hazards and their effects.
Period of deficiency of moisture in the soil such that there is inadequate water required for plants, animals and human beings.


A sudden break within the upper layers of the earth, sometimes breaking the surface, resulting in the vibration of the ground, which where strong enough will cause the collapse of buildings and destruction of life and property.
Element at risk
The population, buildings and civil engineering works, economic activities, public services and infrastructure, etc. exposed to hazards.
An unexpected event which places life and/or property in danger and requires an immediate response through the use of routine community resources and procedures.
Estuarine floods
They are floods caused by the combination between strong wind and high tide.
The situation of people, infrastructure, housing, production capacities and other tangible human assets located in hazard-prone areas. Measures of exposure can include the number of people or types of assets in an area. These can be combined with the specific vulnerability and capacity of the exposed elements to any particular hazard to estimate the quantitative risks associated with that hazard in the area of interest.
Extreme Temperatures Wave (Heatwave)
A long lasting period with extremely high surface air temperature.


Fire danger rating system
A system assess both fixed and variable factors of the fire environment that determine the ease of ignition, rate of spread, difficulty of control, and impact of landscape fires.
Fire line
A strip of land that has been cleared, plowed, or planted with fire-resistant vegetation to prevent a landscape fire from spreading.
Flash floods
Flash floods are floods caused by heavy rainfall taking place within a short timeframe.
A “Flood” means water temporary covering land that is usually not covered in water. This includes floods caused by rivers, mountain springs, Mediterranean – type water streams and floods inflicted to coastal areas by the sea, and excluding floods caused by sewer systems. The floods are a potential cause of incidents, exodus of population, inflicting damage to the environment and seriously disrupting the economic development.
Flood risk
“Flood risk” means the combination of the possibility of flooding and the potential negative consequences for human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity impacted by flooding.
Floods caused by fluctuating lake levels
Floods of this kind usually spread over vast flat areas close to coasts of lakes and last a long time.
Floods caused by local drainage or high groundwater levels
Floods caused by local drainage or high groundwater level urban floods. This type of flood is caused mainly by poor maintenance / control of hydraulic systems, or poor conditions in built-up areas
Floods caused by powerful pressing wind
This kind of flood occurs at the mouth of rivers, as a result of which water is retained in the river and the river water level rises.
Floods resulting from a tsunami
A tsunami is a large seismic sea wave, impulsively generated by shallow – focus or high magnitude earthquakes which can cause disastrous flooding in coastal areas.
All combustible organic material in forests and other lands in the form of fallen leaves, needles and branches etc.
Fuel break
An area on the landscape where there is a discontinuity in fuel which will reduce the likelihood of combustion or reduce the likely rate of fire spread.
Fuel management
The process of managing fuel or fuel arrangement. The aim of fuel management is usually to create a discontinuity in fuels to achieve fragmentation.
Global Warming
The long-term heating of Earth's surface observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth's atmosphere. This term is not interchangeable with the term "climate change."


The probability that a dangerous event occurs.
Hazard Assessment
The process of estimating, for defined areas, the probabilities of the occurrence of potentially-damaging phenomenon of given magnitudes within a specified period of time. Hazard assessment involves analysis of formal and informal historical records, and skilled interpretation of existing topographical, geological, geomorphological, hydrological, and land-use maps.
Hazard Identification
A review of hazards and of locations and conditions associated with hazards in a particular area.
Hazard Mapping
The process of establishing geographically where and to what extent particular phenomena are likely to pose a threat to people, property, infrastructure, and economic activities. Hazard mapping represents the result of hazard assessment on a map, showing the frequency/probability of occurrences of various magnitudes or duration.
Human-Induced Climate Change
Refers to climate-warming trends over the past century which have been attributed to human activities. This arises from the fact that 97 percent or more of climate scientists actively publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journals agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.
A tropical cyclone, formed in the atmosphere over warm ocean; areas, in which wind speeds reach 74 miles per hour (119 km/h) or more, and blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center or “eye”. Circulation is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Hurricane severity is defined by categories from I to V.


Ice-jam floods
Floods caused by fast melting of ice or glaciers. This kind of flooding can be predicted in most cases and this allows the authorities to organize and undertake measures to reduce the impact.


Landscape Fire behavior
The reaction of a landscape fire to the influences of fuel, weather, and topography.
Landscape Fire environment
The surrounding conditions, influences, and modifying forces of topography, fuel, and weather that determine fire behavior, fire effects and impact.
Landscape Fire hazard
Any situation, process, material or condition that can cause a landscape fire or that can provide a ready fuel supply to augment the spread or intensity of a landscape fire, all of which pose a threat to life, property or the environment.
Landscape Fire management
A plan detailing predetermined fire suppression strategies and tactics to be implemented following the occurrence of a landscape fire within a particular area.
Landscape Fire risk
The probability of a landscape fire occurring and its potential impact on a particular location at a particular time.
Landscape Fire severity
The degree to which a site has been altered or disrupted by landscape fire.
Landscape fire intensity
The rate at which a fire releases energy in the form of heat at a given location and at a specific point in time.
In general, a landslide is a movement of a mass of rock, earth or debris down a slope due to gravity. Landslides belong to a group of geological processes referred to as Mass Movement which involves the outward or downward movement of a mass of slope forming material, under the force of gravity.
List of World Heritage in Danger
The List of World Heritage in Danger is clearly defined in Article 11 (4) of the Convention:

1. ... a list of the property appearing in the World Heritage List for the conservation of which major operations are necessary and for which assistance has been requested under the Convention. This list shall contain an estimate of the cost of such operations. The list may include only such property forming part of the cultural and natural heritage as is threatened by serious and specific dangers, such as the threat of disappearance caused by accelerated deterioration, large-scale public or private projects or rapid urban or tourist development projects: destruction caused by changes in the use or ownership of the land; major alterations due to unknown causes; abandonment for any reason whatsoever; the outbreak or the threat of an armed conflict; calamities and cataclysms; serious fires, earthquakes, landslides; volcanic eruptions; changes in water level, floods, and tidal waves. The Committee may at any time, in case of urgent need, make a new entry in the List of World Heritage in Danger and publicize such entry immediately (UNESCO 1972).

Paragraph 6(vi) of the Operational Guidelines states that,
(i) When a property has deteriorated to the extent that it has lost those characteristics which determined its inclusion in the World Heritage List. It should be placed on the World Heritage in Danger List, subsequently the procedure concerning the possible deletion from the List will be applied (UNESCO February 1996: 3).


Monitor (or) Monitoring
Use of checks, inspections, tours, visits, sampling and measurements, surveys, reviews or audits to measure compliance with relevant laws, regulations, standards, codes, procedures and/or practices; includes activities of public authorities, industry and independent bodies.


Natural Disaster
Disasters where the principal, direct cause(s) are natural phenomena.
Natural Hazard
Hazard attributed to natural phenomena, which occur in pose a threat to people, structures or economic assets and may cause disaster. They are caused by geological, seismic, hydrological, or meteorological conditions or processes in the natural environment.
Natural Hazard
Hazard attributed to natural phenomena, which occur in pose a threat to people, structures or economic assets and may cause disaster. They are caused by geological, seismic, hydrological, or meteorological conditions or processes in the natural environment.
Non-structural measures
They are measures not involving physical construction which use knowledge, practice or agreement to reduce disaster risks and impacts, in particular through policies and laws, public awareness raising, training and education.


Overflow from river channel or river floods
These kind of floods are of the highest frequency. They are caused by banks overtopping when the flow capacity of rivers is exceeded locally.


Population at risk
A well-defined population whose lives, property, or/and livelihoods are threatened by given hazards.
A statement of the expected time, place and magnitude of a future event (for floods, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, etc.).
Building the emergency management profession to effectively prepare for, mitigate against, respond to, and recover from any hazard by planning, training, and exercising.
Prescribed or controlled burn
A planned and supervised burn carried out for the purpose of removing fuel either as part of a land management exercise (a prescribed burn) or a Fire Suppression Plan (an operational burn).
The action to keep something from happening.
The likelihood that a considered occurrence will take place.
Public Awareness
The process of informing the community as to the nature of the hazard and actions needed to save lives and property prior to and in the event of disaster.


Radiological Emergency
Radiological Emergency– generally refers to events involving the release of significant levels of radioactivity and exposure of workers or the general public to radiation as a result of Nuclear or Radiological Accident.
Actions taken to re-establish a community after a period of rehabilitation subsequent to a disaster. Actions would include construction of permanent housing, full restoration of all services, and complete resumption of the pre-disaster state.
Rebuilding communities so individuals, businesses, and governments can function on their own, return to normal life, and protect against future hazards.
The operations and decisions taken after a disaster with a view to restoring a stricken community to its former living conditions, whilst encouraging and facilitating the necessary adjustments to the changes caused by the disaster.
Assistance and/or intervention during or after disaster to meet the life preservation and basic subsistence needs. It can be of emergency or protracted duration.
Residual Risk
The risk still remaining after the implementation of risk management practices.
Conducting emergency operations to save lives and property by positioning emergency equipment and supplies; evacuating potential victims; providing food, water, shelter, and medical care to those in need; and restoring critical public services.
The process of planning for and/or implementing procedures for the repair or relocation of the primary site and its contents, and for the restoration of normal operations at the primary site. Expanded to include consideration and implementation of necessary changes designed to improve preparedness for and mitigate the impact of future emergencies.
The combination of the probability of an event and its negative consequences.
Risk Analysis
The determination of the likelihood of an event (probability) and the consequences of its occurrence (impact) for the purpose of comparing possible risks and making risk management decisions.
Risk Assessment
The combination of vulnerability analysis and risk analysis. The determination and presentation (usually in quantitative form) of the potential hazards, and the likelihood and the extent of harm that may result from these hazards.
Risk Management
The process whereby decisions are made and actions implemented to eliminate or reduce the effects of identified hazards.
Risk Reduction
Long-term measures to reduce the scale and /or the duration eventual adverse effects of unavoidable or unpreventable disaster hazards on a society which is at risk, by reducing the vulnerability of its people, structures, services, and economic activities to the impact of known disaster hazards. Typical risk reduction measures include improved building standards, flood plain zoning and land-use planning, crop diversification, and planting windbreaks.
Risque géologique
Phénomène ou processus géologique pouvant causer la perte de vies humaines, des blessures ou autres conséquences sur la santé, des dommages matériels, la perte de moyens de subsistance et de services, des perturbations sociales et économiques ou des dommages environnementaux. Les risques géologiques incluent les processus terrestres internes et les processus terrestres externes qui y sont associés. Les facteurs hydrométéorologiques sont des éléments importants pour certains de ces processus.
Riverine flooding
Riverine flooding (river floods) occur around river beds and are the most frequent, with several different kinds of floods including overflow from river channel or river floods, flash floods, alluvial fan floods, ice – jam flood and dam-break floods.


A situation without unacceptable risks. For purposes of this text, “safety” embraces health, safety and environmental protection, including protection of property.
Secondary hazards
Those hazards that occur as a result of another hazard or disaster, i.e., fires or landslides following earthquakes, epidemics following famines, food shortages following drought or floods.
Snow Storm
A storm with widespread snowfall accompanied by strong winds.
Wind with a speed between 48 and 55 knots (88 and 101 km/h) (Beaufort scale wind force 10). Technological disaster (or “man-made disaster”)
Storm Surge Floods
Storm surge floods form as a result of a hurricane or a strong storm wind. Large waves are formed which batter the coast, causing floods.
Structural measures
They are any physical construction to reduce or avoid possible impacts of hazards, or the application of engineering techniques or technology to achieve hazard resistance and resilience in structures or systems.


Technological Hazard (or “man-made hazard”)
A condition which may have disastrous consequences for a society. It derives from technological processes, human interactions with the environment, or relationships within and between communities.
Technological disaster (or “man-made disaster”)
A serious disruption of the functioning of society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses, which exceed the ability of affected society to cope using only its own resources and where the principal, direct cause(s) are identifiable human actions, deliberate or otherwise.
A tsunami (Japanese word meaning harbour wave) is a series of ocean waves of extremely long wave length and long period generated in a body of water by an impulsive disturbance that displaces the water. Tsunami consists of 5-6 waves which the first wave is small and called the gentle wave. The second and the third waves are the high waves and most destructive.


Volcanic eruption
The discharge (aerial explosive) of fragmentary ejecta, lava and gases from a volcanic vent.
The susceptibility of life, property, or the environment if a specified dangerous event occurs.


A fire that burns uncontrollably in a natural setting (e.g., a forest, or grassland).
Wildland-Rural–Urban Interface
A zone of transition between wildland (unoccupied land) and human settlements and development.


In general it is the subdivision of a geographical entity (country, region, etc.) into homogenous sectors with respect to certain criteria (for example, intensity of the hazard, degree of risk, same overall protection against a given hazard, etc.).