Three Decades of Disasters: A Review of Disaster-Specific Literature from 1977–2009 Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractIntroduction:The potential for disasters exists in all communities. To mitigate the potential catastrophes that confront humanity in the new millennium, an evidence-based approach to disaster management is required urgently. This study moves toward such an evidence-based approach by identifying peer-reviewed publications following a range of disasters and events over the past three decades.Methods:Peer-reviewed, event-specific literature was identified using a comprehensive search of the electronically indexed database, MEDLINE (1956–January 2009). An extended comprehensive search was conducted for one event to compare the event-specific literature indexed in MEDLINE to other electronic databases (EMBASE, CINAHL, AMED, CENTRAL, Psych Info, Maternity and Infant Care, EBM Reviews).Results:Following 25 individual disasters or overwhelming crises, a total of 2,098 peer-reviewed, event-specific publications were published in 789 journals (652 publications following disasters/events caused by natural hazards, 966 following human-made/technological disasters/events, and 480 following conflict/complex humanitarian events).The event with the greatest number of peer-reviewed, event-specific publications was the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks (686 publications). Prehospital and Disaster Medicine published the greatest number of peer-reviewed, event-specific publications (54), followed by Journal of Traumatic Stress (42), Military Medicine (40), and Psychiatric Services (40). The primary topics of event-specific publications were mental health, medical health, and response. When an extended, comprehensive search was conducted for one event, 75% of all peer-reviewed, event-specific publications were indexed in MEDLINE.Conclusions:A broad range of multi-disciplinary journals publish peer-reviewed, event-specific publications. While the majority of peer-reviewed, event-specific literature is indexed in MEDLINE, comprehensive search strategies should include EMBASE to increase yield.


  • Smith, Erin
  • Wasiak, Jason
  • Sen, Ayan
  • Archer, Frank
  • Burkle, Frederick M

publication date

  • January 2009