Conditions: elements are present that may create a problem. For example, oily rags being stored inappropriately, or a 7 day weather outlook shows heavy weather on the horizon.
Situation: the oily rags have been moved closer to a heat source and are smoldering, or weather fronts are combining and a watch has been issued.
Event: our rags have now caught fire in a bucket; or we have rain, hail and high winds currently.
Emergency: Actual event with impending threat to life or property, handled adequately with resources and assets routinely available to the affected area.
Disaster: The event and its aftermath are beyond the abilities of the local area to cope with, but through mutual aid and accessing resources outside of the area, possibly going regionally, the response and recovery effort can be handled effectively.
Catastrophe: Response and recovery efforts and resources required to contain the elements of the event are beyond the capabilities of the region.
Although not widely written down and shared, these informal definitions are widely held in the emergency management community, and may help planners, responders, adjunct agencies, and, of course, radio amateurs understand the dynamics. — Richard (Ryc) Lyden, KD0ZWM, Cottage Grove, Minnesota [Lyden has 25 years of experience in Public Safety, including 15 years of Emergency Management, and eight years in the US Air Force as a Medical Services Technician. He also served eight years in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). He is a former Senior Planner, Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management; Disaster Preparedness specialist in the USAF; and Chairman, Northland Chapter, American Red Cross. – ARRL ARES e-letter editor].