A glossary of terms, definitions and sources




Adaptation An action or strategy to prepare for and adjust to new conditions. (Bierbaum et al., 2014)
Case study Descriptive research that spotlights the experience(s) of a single person, group, or event. (Calhoun, 2002)
Climate The slowly varying aspects of the atmosphere-hydrosphere-land surface system, typically characterized in terms of averages, frequencies, and extremes. (Glickman and Zenk, 2000)
Climate action plan A plan to address climate change impacts at a local or agency level. (Stone et al., 2012)
Climate data The many types of data – instrumental, historical (diaries or crop records, for instance), proxy (tree growth rings) – that constitute the major sources of information for climate studies. (Glickman and Zenk, 2000)
Comprehensive plan A guidance document that integrates the wide range of decisions that a community must make about future growth and development. (Kelley, 2012)
Consensus building Practice in which stakeholders come together to address a policy issue of common concern, seeking consensus rather than majority rule. Also called collaborative problem solving. (Innes and Booher, 1999)
Core capability Set of critical elements necessary to meet the National Preparedness Goal by addressing the greatest risks to the nation. (FEMA, 2018)
Decision-support tool Information tool used to connect climate science with policy implementation. (Feldman and Ingram, 2009)
Drought A deficit of expected water availability that results in water shortages for some activity or group. (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2019)
Drought impacts The complex effects of a drought hazard on physical and social systems. (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2019)
Drought plan Actions taken by individual citizens, industry, government, and others before drought occurs in an effort to reduce or mitigate the impacts and conflicts that can arise from drought. (Schwab, 2013)
Drought Impact Reporter An interactive web-based tool designed to compile and display drought impact information across the United States in near real-time from a variety of sources such as media, government agencies, and the public. (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2018)
Drought Risk Atlas An interactive web-based tool that provides historic drought and climate data for stations across the United States. (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2019c)
Emergency managers Individuals who create the framework within which communities reduce vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters. (FEMA, 2018)
Evaluation A systematic determination of how a program is operating, whether it is working as intended, or if it has achieved its objectives and to identify areas for improvement. (Martin, 2015)
Exercise development/planning team Group of individuals that manages and is responsible for exercise design, development, conduct, and evaluation. (Department of Homeland Security, 2013)
Facilitation A process where an individual assists a group in solving problems and making decisions, without directly contribution to the process or discussion. (WebFinance Inc., 2019)
Focus group A group of people brought together for an in-depth discussion of a problem or issue of concern. (Calhoun, 2002)
Functional exercise An activity designed to validate and evaluate capabilities and functions during a disaster or emergency. This type of simulated exercise is conducted in the most realistic manner possible. (Department of Homeland Security, 2013)
Game An activity that often involves two or more teams competing to explore consequences and achieve goals related to planning or managing a disaster. (Department of Homeland Security, 2013)
Geographic information system (GIS) A computer system that analyzes, manages, and displays spatial or geographic data. (Mitchell and Minami, 1999)
Hazard Potentially damaging physical event, social and economic disruption, or environmental degradation. (FEMA, 2018)
Historical record The collection of past climate data. (van Kooten, 2013)
Instrumental record Weather data observed by instrumentation, such as temperature data, that are measured by a thermometer. (van Kooten, 2013)
Institutional memory The collective knowledge and learned experiences of a group. (IGI Global, 2019)
Jurisdiction An area with unified decision-making authority. (WebFinance Inc., 2019)
Land use management plan A plan to manage the development of land (Kelley, 2012)
Mitigate/mitigation Actions taken by individual citizens, industry, government, and others to lessen a disaster’s impact before it occurs. (FEMA, 2018)
Model/modeling A tool for simulating or predicting the behavior or a system such as the atmosphere or hydrologic cycle. (Glickman and Zenk, 2000)
Multi-hazard mitigation plan A plan to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of different types of disasters. (FEMA, 2019)
Objective A specific result that a person or program aims to achieve within a given timeframe and with available resources. (WebFinance Inc., 2019)
Preparedness The state of being ready to monitor and respond to a hazard, including the early warning signs. (FEMA, 2018)
Qualitative methods Collection of feedback in a more open-ended format. These methods can be done through open-ended questions, focus groups, interviews, and general observations. (CDC, 2012)
Quantitative methods Used in evaluation processes where a defined set of data is collected and analyzed. These methods can be done through telephone, paper, or online surveys. The data can be statistically analyzed as well. (CDC, 2012)
Resilient The ability of a system to be disrupted, absorb shocks, adapt and recover after a disaster. (Adger, 2006)
Risk management In the context of disaster management, an approach that emphasizes actions and activities that take place before an event, such as mitigation, preparedness, and prediction and early warning activities. (Wilhite et al., 2000)
River basin The total area drained by a river and its tributaries. (Glickman and Zenk, 2000)
Scenario An outline or model of the simulated events used in a disaster preparedness exercise. (Department of Homeland Security, 2013)
Scenario-based exercise Structured, interactive activities designed for engaging decision-makers, stakeholders, planners, and emergency managers in the process of planning and managing mitigation and response activities for a disaster. (Department of Homeland Security, 2013)
Scope An indicator of the extent of an emergency preparedness exercise. (Department of Homeland Security, 2013)
Stakeholder An individual, group or organization that is impacted by the outcome of a project. They have an interest in the success of the project, and can be within or outside the organization that is sponsoring the project. (Calhoun, 2002)
Threat A thing likely to cause damage. May result from natural disasters, technological hazards, and human caused incidents. (Department of Homeland Security, 2016)
Tabletop exercise A facilitated group discussion in which representatives from agencies and organizations meet in a classroom or in breakout groups to discuss the implementation of a disaster plan. (Department of Homeland Security, 2013)
THIRA Acronym for the Department of Homeland Security's Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment process, a four-step process designed to help communities identify capability targets and resource requirements necessary to address the risks that they may face. (Department of Homeland Security, 2016)
U.S. Drought Monitor A weekly map of drought conditions across the U.S., jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (NDMC, 2019b)
Vulnerability The state of susceptibility to harm from exposure to a hazard or disaster. (Adger, 2006)
Workshop A participatory gathering of attendees to discuss how to achieve a specific result or build a specific product. (Department of Homeland Security, 2013)