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Crisis Data Management: A Forum Guide to Collecting and Managing Data About Displaced Students
NCES 2010-804
February 2010

Chapter 1. Introduction—What is a Crisis?

In this guide, a "crisis" is defined as "any natural or manmade event that causes the displacement of students." This definition does not distinguish between natural disasters and other types of crises, such as acts of terrorism, as long as they temporarily or permanently disrupt educational activities. In addition to disrupting school-level activities, a crisis may also disturb routine data management operations.

While this document defines a "crisis" in broader terms than the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses for "disasters," FEMA data highlight how frequently communities face crises in our nation. According to its website, FEMA evaluates disasters based on the amount and type of damage, such as the number of homes destroyed or with major damage; the impact on the infrastructure of affected areas and facilities; threats to public health and safety; and interruptions to essential government services and functions. Using these criteria, table 1 shows an average of 57 FEMA-declared disasters annually from 2003 through 2007.

Table 1. Number of declared disasters
Year Number
2007 63
2006 52
2005 48
2004 68
2003 56
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Figure 1 shows that in the past 50 years every state in the nation has been affected by at least one FEMA-declared disaster. A single, large-scale crisis such as Hurricane Katrina can affect the entire nation (see figure 2), and even geographically smaller crises can have a large impact. This guide is intended to help all education agencies prepare for data issues that arise from the displacement of studentsóregardless of the scale or nature of the crisis.