Frequently, engineering students are asked to write papers about famous (or infamous I should say) engineering failures or disasters – the Tacoma Narrows Bridge failure of 1940, the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, etc. Besides Wikipedia, which is a quick place to start, they often need a place to get just basic background facts – names, dates, causes. My colleague Faizan Haq has shared with me a site that he discovered that gives just such quick background facts on various disasters (natural or human-made). This site is called the Disaster Database Project, at
This site is run by Dr. Walter G. Green III, an emergency management expert at the University of Richmond.
The site enables one to search by year only, or to search by specifying things like location (very specific), class (type of failure – human, natural disaster etc) or type of event (again VERY SPECIFIC). The thing to keep in mind with this useful resource is that you probably just search by year of the disaster, if you know it. The database does not work well if you try to specify the class or type of event because you may not know how Dr. Green has categorized it, especially if you don’t know a lot about the event. So, for example, trying to find the entry for the 1994 MS Estonia was difficult because I did not know exactly where it took place. I finally found it by just typing in the year 1994. (This database could use a “full text” search feature – but that is just the librarian in me talking.)
Anyway, I hope you find this tool useful.
Note: there is no information on the site on how frequently it is updated.