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Three Decades of Disasters: A Review of Disaster-Specific Literature from 1977–2009

  • Erin Smith (a1), Jason Wasiak (a2), Ayan Sen (a3), Frank Archer (a4) and Frederick M. Burkle (a5) (a6)...

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.


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).


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.


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.

Corresponding author
Monash UniversityDepartment of Community EmergencyHealth and Paramedic PracticeBuilding H, Peninsula CampusFrankston, VictoriaAustralia E-mail:
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Prehospital and Disaster Medicine
  • ISSN: 1049-023X
  • EISSN: 1945-1938
  • URL: /core/journals/prehospital-and-disaster-medicine
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