Frequently asked questions

1. What is EM-DAT?

EM-DAT is a global database on natural and technological disasters, containing essential core data on the occurrence and effects of more than 21,000 disasters in the world, from 1900 to present. EM-DAT is maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the School of Public Health of the Université catholique de Louvain located in Brussels, Belgium.


2. What is the main aim of EM-DAT?

Its main objectives are to assist humanitarian action at both national and international levels; to rationalize decision-making for disaster preparedness; and to provide an objective basis for vulnerability assessment and priority setting.


3. What are the EM-DAT disaster criteria?

EM-DAT includes all disasters from 1900 until the present, conforming to at least one of the following criteria:

  • 10 or more people dead;
  • 100 or more people affected;
  • The declaration of a state of emergency
  • A call for international assistance

4. What kind of information is included in EM-DAT?

EM-DAT provides geographical, temporal, human and economic information on disasters at the country level. More details on the variables and information included in EM-DAT, and the data processing methodology can be found in the Explanatory Notes section.


5. What is the value of the Estimated Damage entered into EM-DAT?

The estimated damage is given in US $ (in thousands) in the value of the year of occurrence.


6. What does it mean when there is no value in a given field? Is “0” a value?

Empty fields in the EM-DAT database usually indicate missing values or non-reported information. A “0” in EM-DAT does not represent a value, and can signal that no information is available.


7. How are the data compiled?

The database is made up of information from various sources, including UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, insurance companies, research institutes and press agencies. Priority is given to data from UN agencies, governments, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This prioritization is not only a reflection of the quality or value of the data, it also reflects the fact that most reporting sources do not cover all disasters or have political limitations that could affect the figures. The entries are constantly reviewed for inconsistencies, redundancy, and incompleteness. CRED consolidates and updates data on a daily basis. A further check is made at monthly intervals, and revisions are made at the end of each calendar year.


8. What is the resolution of the EM-DAT?

EM-DAT is a country-level database, meaning that the disasters data are entered at a country-aggregated level. When the same disaster affects several countries, several country-level disasters are entered into the database. Each of these country-level disasters will have the same identifier. In cases of multi-country disasters, the inclusion criteria apply to figures for the entire disaster event.


9. Where can I find information on the methodology and EM-DAT’s content?

A complete description of the EM-DAT content and the compilation methodologies is available in the Explanatory Notes section of the website.


10. What is the updating interval of EM-DAT figures?

EM-DAT is internally updated on a daily basis. However, the publicly accessible information is updated every 3 months, once that all the data has been validated and cross-checked using different sources.


11. How can I download the data/access to the EM-DAT data?

The EM-DAT data can be consulted through the database section of the website. The database section is composed of dynamic search tools. All the online generated profiles, summary tables, trends and maps are directly downloadable. However, access to the raw data is only possible through a data request procedure. Each request is reviewed individually by the EM-DAT team and access to the data is only granted on a case-by-case basis.


12. What are the conditions of use?

The EM-DAT database is protected by the law of June 30th, 1994 on copyrights and the law of August 31st, 1998 on the legal protection of databases. Access to the EM-DAT database is made available free of charge by the UCL. The reproduction and communication of the information from EM-DAT is authorized by any means and in all forms, provided that the source is clearly mentioned as follows:

EM-DAT: The Emergency Events Database - Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) - CRED, D. Guha-Sapir - www.emdat.be, Brussels, Belgium.

13. What is the search engine designed for?

The search engine has been designed to allow users to directly browse EM-DAT's updated and validated disaster information. The search is composed of:

  • Country profiles, given by natural and technological disasters.
  • Disaster profiles, given by natural and technological and groups of disasters.
  • Disasters list, accessible by selecting a data set (region or country, period or period in years, disaster group or disaster type)
  • The Advanced Search, allowing users to generate datasheets based on the overall EM-DAT records. Three statistical options are available to generate tables and data sets: Frequency, cross tabulations and totals.
  • Maps (based upon the EM-DAT database), providing geographical summaries of natural disasters events and impacts since 1974
  • A Trends Section, providing numerous pre-made graphs and other figures that display various trends and relationships within the EM-DAT

14. How can I be kept informed on EM-DAT news and publications?

“CRED Crunch”, EM-DAT's quarterly newsletter, is posted to the EM-DAT website. You can subscribe to this newsletter by uploading your email in the “Newsletter” field on the EM-DAT home page. 


15. How can I contact the EM-DAT team?

To contact the EM-DAT team you can either use the online contact form, or send an email to contact@emdat.be.

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