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Engineering failures

Disaster Database Project

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

URL: http://learning.richmond.edu/disaster/index.cfm

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.

About Ed Eckel

I am a engineering and applied sciences librarian at Western Michigan University.


One thought on “Disaster Database Project

  1. Thought you might be interested in our recent announcement to the academic community. Thanks.

    The International Disaster Times
    P. O. Box 799
    Glen Allen, Virginia 23060

    Announces The Disaster Database Project

    A living global historical database of disaster events from 400 BCE to today that captures the types of events to which emergency managers respond:

    • Events range from small local incidents to multi-national catastrophes.
    • Over 2300 events today with an average of 3 new entries added daily.
    • Individual events are continually updated as new material becomes available.
    • Provides standard quantitative data on events along with detailed narrative descriptions.
    • Descriptions are organized based on 5 disaster phases and qualitatively analyzed using over 1000 factors.
    • Each event is rated using a disaster intensity index which allows comparison of different types of disasters.

    The Disaster Database Project is a quick reference tool:

    • Designed for researchers, instructors, and students.
    • Supports research, teaching, and writing.
    • Searchable by year, country, event type, and grid location.
    • All events are supported by sources.

    An example of an entry in The Disaster Database Project is enclosed with this announcement.

    The Disaster Database Project is managed by Walter G. Green III, Ph.D. His 30+ years of experience in field disaster operations, volunteer and agency program management, teaching, and chairing graduate and undergraduate programs in disaster science bring both academic and practitioner perspectives to the recording and interpretation of disaster data.

    Access to The Disaster Database Project is by subscription. Annual individual subscriptions are $50.00 and annual institutional subscriptions for departments or libraries are $500.00. Order either subscription online at http://disastertimes.com.

    I look forward to supporting your research and teaching with our growing body of disaster reference information.

    Walter G. Green III, Ph.D.

    Posted by L.H.Green | April 18, 2010, 9:45 am

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