How many large natural disasters occur? How much does the government spend on disaster relief?
Disasters refer to incidents (natural or human-caused) that cause severe property damage, injuries, or death. Learn about how much the government spends on disaster relief and how many large-scale disasters have occurred in recent years.
USAFacts categorizes government budget data to allocate spending appropriately, and to arrive at the estimate presented here. Spending on disaster relief depends on what occurs in a given year. The fiscal year with the most disaster-related spending was 2006, immediately after Hurricane Katrina.
Government revenue and expenditures are based on data from the Office of Management and Budget, the Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Each is published annually, although due to collection times, state and local government data are not as current as federal data. Thus, when combining federal, state, and local revenues and expenditures, the most recent year for a combined number may be delayed.
Level of government
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Manage and coordinate disaster prevention and response
Local fire departments
Respond to and prevent local disasters
Level of government
Disaster declarations are a federal designation that can be issued to a particular area to assist state and local government, individuals, and some organizations before or after a disaster. Declarations are issued on a state-by-state basis. Therefore, a single disaster, such as a hurricane or a pandemic, can lead to multiple declarations issued across multiple states.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal agency that is responsible for most disaster relief, tracks declarations. Disaster declarations are one way to measure the number of disasters that occur yearly, though it is not an official count. Read more about how disaster declarations work.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publishes a database of all disasters that caused more than $1 billion in direct costs to families, businesses, and infrastructure. Dating back to 1980, the database can be used to track the frequency of large disasters in the US.
Historical incidents are added based on inflation. The data would represent the incident if it caused damage exceeding $1 billion in today's dollars.
In addition to the costs of billion-dollar disasters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also tracks the number of deaths caused by the incidents.