What’s the difference between an emergency and a disaster?
An emergency is a catastrophic event that can be addressed within the household or by requested assistance from outside the area (first responders – fire, Sheriff’s Department, medical or utility personnel).
A disaster is a catastrophic event that is significant enough to prohibit or delay immediate response by first responders from outside the area. A disaster is beyond the abilities of the household and it requires assistance from neighbors.
— from the Disaster Preparedness page here on the GriffinNeighbors web site