Why we changed The Data Health Check to support #NoNaturalDisasters

Disasters are not natural

Every year, in our Data Health Check survey, we ask:

What was the biggest cause of IT downtime for your organisation in the last 12 months?

We’ve been asking it since 2008 and  tracked some interesting trends, particularly the growth of cyber-attacks. 

Respondents can choose from several common causes of downtime:

  • Hardware failure
  • Cyber incident
  • Cloud outages
  • Connectivity issues

Until this year, we always included the option “Natural disaster”.  It seemed like an obvious inclusion as a catch-all for flooding, storms and snow that cause disruption in the UK.

In response to the #NoNaturalDisasters campaign, this year we replaced “Natural Disaster” with “Extreme weather or flooding”. 

#NoNaturalDisasters is a movement in the worlds of Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Planning.

The idea is that the term “natural disaster” is misleading. While hazards can be natural and unavoidable, the resulting disasters are almost always made by human actions and decisions.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) defines a disaster as:

“A... sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using its own resources.”

We can’t have a disaster without people or a community.

I.e. a flood isn’t a disaster if it doesn’t affect anyone. If it affects 100 homes and offices, it is a disaster.

When we use the term ‘natural’ it shifts blame from those who can lessen the risk of hazards impacting our homes and places of work. In the flood example, human decisions affected that outcome. Planning permission was granted, damns may have been built, flood defences may or may not have been created.

It’s a small change but an important one. The language we use affects our thoughts and actions so we wanted to update our survey and support the great work being done by #NoNaturalDisasters.

Find out more


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