Threats which may potentially impact NC Eastern campuses


Flooding is defined by the rising and overflowing of water onto normally dry land. Flooding can result from an overflow of inland waters or an unusual accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source.

Hurricanes & Coastal Hazards

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface. Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 miles per hour. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.

Severe Winter Weather

Severe winter storms can involve heavy snowfall and/or ice accumulation (generally noted when accumulation reaches ¼ inch or more), often accompanied by extreme cold, which can result in blocked roads, dangerous road and sidewalk conditions, downed trees and power lines, and hypothermia.

Excessive Heat

Extreme heat events are one of the leading weather-related causes of death in the United States. Extreme high temperatures compromise the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, which can result in a cascade of illnesses and can aggravate chronic conditions. Excessive heat can also cause damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges.


An earthquake is a movement or shaking of the ground. Most earthquakes are caused by the release of stresses accumulated as a result of the rupture of rocks along opposing fault planes in the Earth’s outer crust.


A wildfire is an uncontained fire that spreads through the environment. Wildfires have the ability to consume large areas, including infrastructure, property, and resources.

Dam Failure

A dam failure is the collapse or breach of a dam that causes downstream flooding. Dam failures may be caused by natural events, manmade events, or a combination. Due to the lack of advance warning, failures resulting from natural events, such as earthquakes or landslides, may be particularly severe. Prolonged rainfall and subsequent flooding is the most common cause of dam failure.


Drought is a deficiency in precipitation over an extended period. It is a normal, recurrent feature of climate that occurs in virtually all climate zones. However, drought can affect people’s health and safety. It has the potential to impact water supply, agricultural yields, and water-dependent industries. Drought conditions can also increase the likelihood of wind erosion and increase wildfire risk.


A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Thunderstorms result from the rapid upward movement of warm, moist air. They can occur inside warm, moist air masses and at fronts. Severe thunderstorm winds arise from convection and have speeds of at least 58 mph, or are winds of any speed producing a fatality, injury or damage.


A landslide is the downward and outward movement of slope-forming soil, rock, and vegetation. Landslides may be triggered by both natural and human-caused changes in the environment, including heavy rain, rapid snow melt, steepening of slopes due to construction or erosion, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and changes in groundwater levels. Sinkholes are a natural and common geologic feature in areas with underlying limestone and other rock types that are soluble in natural water. These rock formations dissolve, creating underground voids and drainage systems that can sometimes cause the overlying ground surface to collapse into the underground cavity.

Infectious Disease

Infectious disease is a public health threat that can cause isolation, quarantine, and potential mass casualties. Disease spread and mortality is affected by a variety of factors, including virulence, ease of spread, aggressiveness of the virus and its symptoms, resistance to known antibiotics and environmental factors. Impacts of infectious disease can range from school and business closings to the interruption of basic services.

Hazardous Substances

A hazardous material is any item or agent (biological, chemical, physical) which has the potential to cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment, either by itself or through interaction with other factors. A release or spill of bulk hazardous materials could result in fire, explosion, toxic cloud or direct contamination of people and property. The effects may involve a local site or many square miles. Health problems may be immediate, such as corrosive effects on skin and lungs, or be gradual, such as the development of cancer from a carcinogen. Damage to property could range from immediate destruction by explosion to permanent contamination by a persistent hazardous material.

Radiological Emergencies

A nuclear and radiation accident is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency as “an event that has led to significant consequences to people, the environment or the facility.” Often, nuclear incidents result from damage to the reactor core of a nuclear power plant which can release radioactivity into the environment.


Terrorism is defined in the United States by the Code of Federal Regulations as: “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” A terror threat is generally more likely to be targeted at a critical or symbolic location.


A cyber threat is any deliberate attack on information technology systems in an attempt to gain illegal access to a computer, or purposely cause damage. Cyber-attacks use malicious code to alter computer operations or data.

Image Credits

Bureau of Land Management (Wildfire); Archives New Zealand (Earthquake); North Carolina National Guard (Flood); VisualHunt (Drought); Defense.gov (Tornado); NASA Goddard Photo and Video (Hurricane); Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (Severe Winter Weather, Excessive Heat); North Carolina Department of Transportation Communications (Geological); Heilemann Tami, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Dam Failure); Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress (Radiological Emergencies); Michael Ball (Terror Threat); Wikimedia Commons (Infectious Disease, Cyber)

Header image by AdamantlyMike on Wikimedia Commons.