Overview of EM-DAT and Latest Updates

Why Document EM-DAT?

Since its creation in 1988, the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) has undergone many changes. Tracing these changes over time was a difficult task that required combing through the archives to reconstruct the history of the database structure, concepts, and definitions. This versioned documentation gives you a rigorous tool which you can use to track its evolution and access up-to-date information.

EM-DAT Documentation

EM-DAT documentation 2023.09 was the first release with a Version Control System. As the version number indicates, it was released in September 2023. The current version is 2024.03. The 2023.09 release introduced breaking changes in the public table format, a backup of the legacy public table is available here. It is available under the same conditions.

First version 2023.09 of the EM-DAT Documentation.

  • EM-DAT Documentation: Removed EM-DAT guidelines and replaced them with this new documentation website.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Made minor changes in the column names and their styling.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Added new column ‘Historic’.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Added new column ‘Classification Key’.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Added new column ‘Entry Date’.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Added new column ‘Last Update’.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Removed column ‘Year’. Use ‘Start Year’ instead.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Removed column ‘Seq’. Sequential number can be retrieved from the ‘Dis No.’ column instead.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Removed column ‘Disaster Subsubtype’. Use the new 4-level classification tree instead.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Replaced ‘Glide’ Column with ‘External IDs’.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Replaced column ‘Continent’ with the ‘Region’ column based on UN M49 standard.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Replaced column ‘Region’ with the ‘Subregion’ column based on UN M49 standard.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Replaced the two columns ‘Associated Dis’ and ‘Associated Dis2’ with one column ‘Associated Types’. The new column can store an unlimited number of associated types.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Replaced columns ‘Adm Level’, ‘Admin1 Code’, ‘Admin2 Code’, and ‘Geo Locations’ with one single column ‘Admin Units’ with JSON entries.
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Columns ‘OFDA Response’, ‘Appeal’, and ‘Declaration’ are now strictly binary (either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’).
  • EM-DAT Public Data: Reviewed and made minor corrections to the data content during the documentation process.

Minor update of the EM-DAT Documentation.

  • EM-DAT Documentation: updated highlighted publications.
  • EM-DAT Documentation: edited ‘Admin Units’ column description.
  • EM-DAT Documentation: edited and added a reference in the ‘Known Issues’ section.
  • EM-DAT Documentation: added a column ‘classif key’ in the table description the main classification system.

Minor update of the EM-DAT Documentation.

  • EM-DAT Documentation: corrected classification for inconsistencies in Mass Movement (dry) and Mass Movement (wet) children subtypes.
  • EM-DAT Documentation: added notice of complex disasters removal in the classification and database.
  • EM-DAT Documentation: added link to the last version of the previous public table in the previous portal layout, including removed complex disasters.
  • EM-DAT Documentation: updated the protocols to reflect the weekly rate of updates of the public table.

Preprint on the EM-DAT Database available, one column name change and minor changes.

  • EM-DAT Documentation: added preprint citation in “How to Cite?”
  • EM-DAT Documentation and Public Table: renamed the column OFDA Response to OFDA/BHA Response, with updates in the related documentation.
  • EM-DAT Documentation: added more references to the legacy public table.

Python Tutorials made available and minor changes in external resources.

  • EM-DAT Documentation: added 2 Python Tutorials in the “External Resources and Tutorials” section.
  • EM-DAT Documentation: removed tidyDisasters from the external resources as the package is not maintained and has been removed from CRAN.
  • EM-DAT Documentation: Removed broken link referring to UN Second-Administrative Level Boundaries (SLAB) program.

Overview of EM-DAT

In 1988, the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) launched the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT). EM-DAT was created with the initial support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Belgian Government. Since 1999, EM-DAT has been supported by the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA, previously the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, or OFDA) within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The initial objective of the database is to serve the purposes of humanitarian action at the national and international levels. Today, EM-DAT is also used to rationalize disaster preparedness and decision-making while providing an objective basis for vulnerability and risk assessment.

The EM-DAT database records mass disasters as well as their health and economic impacts at a country level (see Data Structure). The database contains core data on the occurrence and effects of 26,000 disasters worldwide from 1900 to the present. The database is compiled from various sources of information, including UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, insurance companies, research institutes, and press agencies (see Sources).

How to Cite?

To acknowledge EM-DAT as a data source in publications (e.g., documents, PowerPoint presentations, posters, or image charts), we recommend the following citation syntax:

EM-DAT, CRED / UCLouvain, 2024, Brussels, Belgium –

Since the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) is regularly updated, we advise including the access date to ensure reference accuracy. If you use EM-DAT for a scientific publication, we would appreciate citations to the following database descriptor article (preprint):

Delforge, D. et al.: EM-DAT: The Emergency Events Database, Preprint,, 2023.

Highlighted Publications

Check our latest EM-DAT-related research paper:

Jones, R. L., Kharb, A., and Tubeuf, S.: The untold story of missing data in disaster research: a systematic review of the empirical literature utilising the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT), Environ. Res. Lett., 18, 103006,, 2023.

All CRED publications relative to EM-DAT are accessible from our online repository.

For a comparison of available disaster loss databases, we recommend reading:

Mazhin, S. A., Farrokhi, M., Noroozi, M., Roudini, J., Hosseini, S. A., Motlagh, M. E., Kolivand, P., and Khankeh, H.: Worldwide disaster loss and damage databases: A systematic review, J Educ Health Promot, 10, 329,, 2021.

For a disaster loss dataset based on EM-DAT with improved geocoding, have a look at:

Rosvold, E. L. and Buhaug, H.: GDIS, a global dataset of geocoded disaster locations, Sci Data, 8, 61,, 2021.

For a comprehensive global overview of natural hazards and disasters, we recommend reading the following online publication:

Ritchie, H., Rosado, P., and Roser M.(2022) - “Natural Disasters.” Published online at Retrieved from: ‘' [Online Resource]