Known Issues and Limitations

What Difficulties May Be Encountered While Interpreting EM-DAT Data?

EM-DAT is the only comprehensive, free-access disaster loss database with effective global coverage1. However, it has limitations due to the limited number of sources and limitations related to how effectively disasters are reported worldwide. This can lead to biases in the data over which CRED may have limited control, and that could be overlooked in the literature2. Nevertheless, EM-DAT remains a key resource for understanding disaster events and impacts. No current impact database is completely accurate. The United Nations emphasizes the importance of global improvements in documenting disasters in global agendas such as the SENDAI Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR).

Understanding the limitation of a dataset such as EM-DAT is of paramount importance for those who wish to adequately use the data and mitigate its weaknesses for the following purposes: disaster risk management, emergency planning, scientific research, and raising public awareness.

  1. 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. ↩︎

  2. 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. ↩︎

General Issues

Understanding Broad Data Quality Concerns in EM-DAT

Specific Biases

Understanding Particular Data Quality Concerns in EM-DAT