Case Study Instructions

Write a case study of a natural disaster that occurred at least FIVE years ago (i.e. before January 2017). It can be any natural event, occurring anywhere in the world. Each person must have their own disaster, each of which must be approved by me BEFORE the deadline of Jan 28 (third week of class).

The final paper is to be submitted electronically – through Canvas – by Friday April 22 at 11.59pm. I will return it to you, graded, via Canvas.

I suggest that you choose a topic that is inherently interesting to you. It might be in a location you know of or it might be a type of disaster you have knowledge of, or are fascinated by. There are many many many to choose from; ask if you need help.

This is not meant to be a huge project, but is intended to be a comprehensive study of a particular disaster. In total, it is worth 15% of your grade and I hope you can get a very high score by following these instructions closely. I will use a rubric and grade based on your ability to follow instructions.

How long should it be? That depends on how much detail you have available. I am not looking for any specific length; I am looking for appropriate descriptions in each section! I think you should have 5 pages at a minimum, 10 pages at a maximum. Diagrams, maps and images will be extra. Your report will be typed. Use a 12-point font (like this one) and single line spacing (like this!). I will grade it electronically.

Use a minimum of THREE academic sources, including journals and books from the library. You may find news media and popular magazines helpful – try to choose trustworthy ones (e.g. National Geographic, New York Times). Do use images and diagrams if they convey information that cannot adequately be described otherwise. Very often case studies are done for places with which students are not familiar – so include a map! Each figure should be introduced in the text (e.g. “figure 1 shows the area of land slippage…”) and should have an explanatory caption with a URL or source citation directly below it.

Use spell check. Use grammar check. Proof read. Write professionally.

Citation style should be APA. Use citations throughout the text for specific information (like number of people injured, amount of damage suffered) and also for information that is more than general knowledge. If you didn’t know a fact before you started this study, then you need to include a citation! Use (Author, Year) within the text and put a list of references at the very end, in alphabetical order by author’s last name. If you include a direct quote, put it in quotation marks and cite the author with the page number. If you are uncertain, ask. If you need help finding references, ask! Visit the Writing Center to improve your paper and for extra credit!

Write in complete, grammatically correct sentences, as professionally as possible. Proof-read your work; reading out loud to yourself is a very good way to do this.

The format should be as follows, with six sections as outlined. The sections may be numbered, or you may use subheadings to separate them. Phases of recovery are those used in figure 1.13, Recovery from Disaster, in Keller & DeVeccio. You should say something about each phase.

Your name


Name, Location & Date of Disaster

  1. Explain the physical process that caused this disaster. What happened? Give as much background as possible regarding the type of hazard and the details leading up to this disaster. It may have been a single event, or a sequence of events that led up to the final disaster. You may have secondary hazards that cause more damage than primary (e.g. 2004 Indonesia tsunami was secondary, after an earthquake). Explain as much as possible.
  2. Was the population aware of this type of hazard and/or of the risk they faced? Had this type of event occurred before? Had any mitigation or preparation been planned? Was the population prepared in any way?
  3. How vulnerable was the population? Give some assessment of vulnerability, which might include socioeconomic status, age, wealth, education, type of industry or economy in the area, how capable people were of escaping the hazard or the disaster, and anything else you can think of.
  4. Describe the phases of recovery (refer to figure 1.13 in Keller & DeVeccio):
    1. Emergency phase. How long did it last? What happened? Include any numbers you find on deaths and injury, buildings collapsed, infrastructure damaged. Include any descriptions. What kinds of emergency actions took place? Who carried out search and rescue? Where were survivors fed and sheltered? Who did the initial clearance work? Do you have any impression of public opinion at that time?
    2. Restoration phase. How long did it last? What kinds of activities were required? Was the work done by the native population/community, by people brought in from outside by contractors or private owners, or by government entities? Did the original population move back? What kinds of services were restored first?
    3. Reconstruction phases (to replace what was lost, and to improve upon what was there before). How long did this take – or is it still going on? Did reconstruction focus exactly on replacement of what was lost? Was any mitigation included, like levees or a sea wall or strengthening of bridges or altering building codes?
  5. It has been at least five years since the disaster you described. Assess the awareness of the population of the risk from this type of hazard. This might be in the form of formal evacuation drills and disaster preparation notices, or it might be in the form of community preparation and family stories… What preparation for another event has occurred? Any real adaptations to the event you describe? If not, attempt to explain why not.
  6. References: include an alphabetical listing of all the sources you used to write this report, using APA format. Look up APA style online ( ASK if you’re not sure how to cite something.

Example references:

Godschalk, D. R., A. Rose, E. Mittler, K. Porter and C. Taylor West. 2009. Estimating the value of foresight: aggregate analysis of natural hazard mitigation benefits and costs. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 52:6, 739-756.

Keller, E. A. and R. H. Blodgett. 2009. Natural Hazards; Earth’s Processes as Hazards, Disasters, and Catastrophes 2nd edition, Pearson Prentice Hall.

Zoback, M. L. 2009. Crystal Ball Earth: Natural Hazards: Reducing society’s risks. Earth; retrieved January 8 2012 from

How will I grade this assignment? A rubric is posted on Canvas. Refer to it as you complete your case study!!